After a somewhat quiet first two seasons in the league, he put up 23.4 points a game in 2020, and he sprouted up to 26.4 and 26.9 points per game, respectively, the past two seasons.
In the early rounds of this year’s playoffs, he was impressive at times, and people around the basketball world felt that Tatum was arriving as a superstar and even an MVP candidate in the near future.
— Jays Enthusiast (@gReenbean_26) June 13, 2022
However, the Golden State Warriors exposed him in the NBA Finals.
In Boston’s six-game loss to Stephen Curry and company, Tatum put up just 21.5 points a game, and his shooting was downright atrocious, as he made just 36.7 percent of his shots from the field.
It is clear now that Tatum may be a star, but he clearly isn’t a superstar (and yes, there is a pretty big difference between the two).
Tatum Wasn’t There For His Team
In Game 1 of the championship series, the Celtics took a 120-108 decision thanks to a big fourth-quarter surge, and it looked like they had a good chance of hanging banner No. 18.
Tatum went an ugly 3-of-17 from the field, but he had 13 assists, and most expected him to return to form soon.
He played better in Boston’s Game 2 blowout loss, going 8-of-19 from the field, including 6-of-8 from 3-point range while scoring 28 points.
But the Tatum most expected never really showed up.
He was 9-of-23 in Game 3 and 8-of-23 in the following contest, and with him flaming out down the stretch of the fourth contest, the Warriors were able to pull away and tie the series.
Tatum’s only good game of the Finals came in Game 5 when he hit 50 percent of his shots and scored 27 points to go along with 10 rebounds, but the Celtics lost once again, putting them on the brink of elimination.
Back home for Game 6, he failed to rescue his team, scoring a scant 13 points on 6-of-18 shooting, and the Celtics were handed a 13-point loss and sent home for the summer to lick their wounds.
Jayson Tatum when the Celtics need him most
— #45➡️🌴 (@AdebayosGoat) June 17, 2022
While playing for the world championship, it is normal for great players to have one or two bad shooting games out of six or seven contests – after all, Curry had a terrible Game 5.
But when a supposedly great player is bad five games out of six, it is a sign that something is amiss.
Will He Bounce Back?
It is worth noting that at age 24, Tatum is still very young, and he is still three or four years from entering his prime.
In addition, it’s not exactly unheard of for great players to play poorly in their first Finals appearance.
The greatest Celtic of them all, Larry Bird, was also pretty bad his first time in the NBA Finals, which came against the Houston Rockets.
In Boston’s six-game triumph, Bird shot less than 32 percent and scored 12 points or less in three of those contests.
No one seems to care, as Bird became one of the game’s greatest ever and one of the most clutch performers in NBA history.
While Tatum can take a bit of solace in these facts, the fact remains that he needs to start consistently stringing together great games consecutively to be considered a true superstar by NBA fans outside of New England.