By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — In his first game back of the NBA’s restarted season, Jayson Tatum looked like a guy who forgot how to play basketball. It was worrisome, but most felt pretty confident that the 22-year-old would remember how to put the ball in the hoop fairly quickly.
That confidence was rewarded Sunday afternoon as Tatum exploded for a game-high 34 points in Boston’s 128-124 win over the Portland Trail Blazers in Orlando. After going a woeful 2-for-18 in a loss to the Bucks on Friday, Tatum hit 11 of his 22 shots on Sunday afternoon. He hit an impressive five of his eight attempts from three-point range.
Tatum looked a lot more like himself Sunday, and in more ways than one. He admitted that he was much more in balance during the game, and though he wouldn’t admit it, that balance obviously came from the haircut he got between his two bubble games. Tatum took the floor Friday night with a healthy collection of curls atop his head. On Sunday, he had his usual close cut, and it paid off immediately.
The 2020 All-Star initially wanted to get a buzz before Friday night’s game, but he had family that wanted to see him play with the curls. And when mom tells you something, you do it — even if you are a rising star in the NBA.
“I was going to cut my hair before the first game, but my mom, my grandma, and a couple of more people love the curls so they wanted me to play a game or two,” explained Tatum. “I guess it was a coincidence that I went 2-for-18 and then cut my hair.”
Sure, a coincidence. Next thing he’ll tell us is that a lucky pair of socks doesn’t actually contain any luck.
While nothing went right for Tatum on Friday night (minus a basket he was credited for that the Bucks actually put in, giving Tatum two of his five points or the evening), he made all the right plays against the Blazers. We’ve seen him light up the scoreboard a number of times, but his passing was at its best as well. Tatum dished out a career-high eight assists, including a key helper late in the game that sealed the victory for Boston.
With the Celtics clinging to a three-point lead with under a minute left (after blowing a double digit advantage in the second half), Tatum felt the Portland defense collapsing on him. That left Jaylen Brown wide open in the corner, and Tatum delivered a perfect pass to the Boston swingman, who calmly drained the triple to give the Celtics a 125-119 lead with 32.3 seconds left.
The three sealed the win for Boston, and gave Tatum a new career-high in assists.
“Just making the reads and simply making the right pass,” he said of his passing performance against the Blazers. “You see double teams and someone is going to be open. It’s as simple as making the right play.”
It was the all-around effort that makes Tatum one of the most lethal offensive players in the game. Two nights after having everything go wrong, Tatum was back to making everything right in the world for the Boston Celtics.