He was being talked about as a rising superstar and even one of the very best players in the NBA.
However, in the NBA Finals, he has been about as cold as a January day in Boston.
Tatum has shot less than 40 percent in three of the series’ first four games, and he did not even reach 43 percent shooting in any of those first four contests.
— Aditya (@kadi_kid) June 14, 2022
In Game 5 on Monday, he finally came alive with 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting from the field, but the Celtics lost to the Golden State Warriors, 104-94.
The Celtics are returning home for Game 6 facing extinction, and if there is a time they ever needed Tatum to play up to his standards, it’s now.
But he also has an immense opportunity ahead of him.
If the Celtics win these last two games (if necessary) and clinch their 18th NBA championship, and if Tatum plays well in both contests, he can cement his status as a true superstar and perhaps a Boston legend.
In Boston, Only World Championships Count
Boston is one of the most spoiled sports markets in our nation, as each of its four major pro sports teams has won at least one world championship in this century.
The Celtics and Bruins have one apiece, the Red Sox have four and of course, the New England Patriots have six during that span.
The Celtics are one of the few teams in the NBA or any sport that only hang world championship banners in their home arena.
They have 17 of them right now, and that has become the standard by which they are measured.
Tatum is a very good player, but he has had trouble consistently shooting well from game to game, and in these Finals, he has been pretty bad, at least so far.
Jayson Tatum either swishes threes or airballs them. Pretty much sums up his performance in these playoffs.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) June 14, 2022
His team isn’t quite out of it yet, but it did look somewhat meek and even tired down the stretch of Game 4 and Game 5, both of which were losses.
If the Celtics come back to win this series, it would go down somewhere in Boston lore, especially since they are going up against a dynasty-in-progress in the Warriors.
Celtics legends of the past such as Larry Bird, Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett didn’t back down in a situation like this, and even when they did lose such a series, they went down kicking and screaming.
Tatum will not join them, or the others, without a championship ring of his own.
Boston Badly Needs Offense
In each of their three losses in the Finals, the Celtics have scored less than 100 points and shot less than 42 percent from the field.
Against an outstanding defensive team like Golden State, they have to find a way to put together at least a semi-respectable number of points to have a chance at staying alive, let alone winning.
Boston may be able to scratch out a win at home in Game 6 if Tatum struggles again, but there is no way it will win Game 7 in California if that is the case.
Tatum has to at least play up to his standards to give Boston a shot at coming back in this series.
Otherwise, he will face a long summer of criticism and perhaps even be accused of being overrated.