IBy Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Jayson Tatum has never really received much love from the refs. The Celtics rising star could get bullied on the way to the basket, and usually, he wouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt from the zebras.
That was a little different in Tuesday night’s Game 2 win over the Raptors, as Tatum took — and made — 14 free throws en route to a 34-point outburst. All those freebies contributed to the 22-year-old setting a new playoff career-high for himself and the Celtics earning a 102-99 victory.
Raptors head coach Nick Nurse took umbrage to that, voicing his displeasure with the officiating crew after Boston’s win.
“The only frustrating part about it is this: he shoots 14 free throws, which is as much as our whole team shoots,” said Nurse, whose Raptors now trail the Celtics 2-0 in the series. “That’s the frustrating part. I think our guys were working hard on him and we were doing a pretty good job.
“He did make some good shots,” he said of Tatum. “They were obviously getting him the ball a lot, getting him in space. We could’ve helped a little bit better here and there, but they took very good care of him tonight.”
That was as far as Nurse’s criticism of the officials would go, since the NBA Coach of the Year didn’t want to have his wallet feel the repercussions of any of his comments. And he was a little bit off with his numbers, as the Raptors shot 19 free throws in Game 2, making 16 of them.
But really, Tatum earned his trips to the line, and was just being a smart player. Eight of his 14 free throws came in the third quarter, when he made it a point to attack the Raptors after they hit the foul limit at the 7:45 mark. And Nurse didn’t seem to mind when Tatum got slapped with a questionable offensive foul in the closing seconds, leading to an extremely weak technical foul on the the C’s forward. (Yes, they always hit players with a T if they punch the air in anger so long as their name isn’t LeBron or Giannis or Kawhi, but come on, it’s the playoffs!)
As all NBA coaches do, Nurse is doing his best to work the refs, hoping some things will change when Thursday night’s Game 3 tips off. But if Tatum is finally getting some calls in addition to his already dangerous offensive game, it may not matter.