A Disturbing Trend Emerging for Jayson Tatum


As the Boston Celtics continue to ebb and flow through the 2021 season, several disturbing trends have emerged.  The team's inability to close out games and constant disappearance in the fourth quarter.  The team's lack of defensive intensity.  A lack of mental toughness and resilience on the floor when things don't go their way, just to name a few. 

Photo courtesy of USA Today

However, there's a trend surrounding a certain Celtic star that is the most concerning, and that is Jayson Tatum and his horrific starts to games. 

You may look at the box score on any given night and see that Tatum finished somewhere in the mid 20's in terms of points.  A solid night by any means.  The problem is becoming that Tatum's putrid first quarters are putting the Celtics in difficult spots right out of the gate.

When you look at Tatum's performance by quarters, the first quarter has far and away been his worst.  It's the only quarter where he is shooting less than 40% on the year.  Every other quarter he is shooting better than 45%.  He's attempted more than 200 shots in each of the four quarters this year, but has made just 84 first quarter shots.  In each of the other three quarters, he's made at least 100.

From three-point range, it's even worse, as he's shooting just 31% in quarter one; compared to 36%, 41% and 42% in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters respectively. 

Tatum has gone scoreless in the first quarter in each of Boston's last two games, and has left the team trailing after the quarter in each one.  He's missed all eight of his shot attempts, with seven of those coming from beyond the arc. 

Tatum has played in 45 of Boston's 51 games this season.  In seven of those games he's failed to make a shot in the first quarter; he went scoreless in six of them.  In addition to those games, Tatum also has 14 games this season where he has made just one first quarter shot, and scored three points or fewer.

So in just about half of his games (21 of 45), Tatum has scored three points or fewer in the first quarter.  For comparison's sake, Jaylen Brown as played in 47 games this season, and has scored three points or fewer in the first quarter in just seven of those games, going scoreless three times. 

So yes, guys can get off to slow starts, but for a player of Tatum's caliber, it happens far too often.  And look, I'm not trying to turn this into a Jaylen vs. Jayson thing.  It's merely an observation.  Both of these guys are extremely talented, and are important pieces of Boston's future.

The fact that Tatum is still averaging a career high 25.2 points per game and shooting better than 45% overall despite his penchant for slow starts is proof of his abilities.  Once he gets going, he can score in bunches and take games over.  The issue is that 25 points can feel different when you pile them up after your team has fallen behind big.

The problem is, that these slow starts put the Celtics in bad spots early in games.  Obviously, if Tatum's on the floor and not scoring, it's a problem, but the issue gets compounded when he heads to the bench. 

If Tatum has a scoreless stint on the floor, that puts extra pressure on bench guys to come in and pick up the slack; and most of the second unit guys aren't capable of doing that.  So without that scoring punch, small deficits can balloon and, by the time Tatum checks back in and gets into the flow of the game, the Celtics find themselves down double digits and are facing an uphill climb the rest of the way. 

The other issue is that at this point in his career, Tatum is primarily impacting games with his scoring.  He's not making plays for other guys, or impacting the game in other ways consistently.  It'd be one thing to have a scoreless quarter, but also rack up a few rebounds and a handful of assists.  That's not what's going on, though.

If the Celtics want to get where they want to go, and Tatum wants to be considered among the game's elites, he has to improve his early game woes.  One way to do that is to try and get an easy bucket early on.  Attack the basket, try to get a lay up or something in the paint.  We've seen how one made basket can lead to a run of points from Tatum.

It's puzzling as to how somebody as talented as Tatum can consistently go through these types of stretches.  If these struggles continue, so will Boston's.

Follow Derek on Twitter @mcvay34.

Check out Above The Parquet, the Syndicate’s podcast dedicated solely to the Boston Celtics and the rest of the NBA.  Follow on Twitter @AboveTheParquet.

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Boston Sports Syndicate: A Disturbing Trend Emerging for Jayson Tatum
A Disturbing Trend Emerging for Jayson Tatum
Boston Sports Syndicate
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