By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics want Jayson Tatum taking the final shot. As he showed on opening night and a handful of other times throughout his young career, he can hit those high-pressure, gotta-have-it hoops.
But now in his fourth year, you want Tatum to have an array of moves ready for such situations. Instead, the 22-year-old far too often relies on his shot — and just his shot — over his creativity.
It leads to what we saw play out Sunday night in Boston’s 108-107 loss to the Indiana Pacers. And it casts a little bit of doubt in the budding superstar’s ability to bang home those game-winners on a consistent basis.
After a frantic final minute in Sunday’s game found the Celtics with the ball down by one point with 7.7 seconds left, Grant Williams inbounded to Tatum at the top of the key. But Tatum didn’t start dribbling until there was less than four seconds left on the clock, and those dribbles didn’t really accomplish anything. As time expired, Tatum settled for a 27-foot stepback over Malcolm Brogdon.
There was no magic off the backboard like there was against Milwaukee last Wednesday. This time, Tatum’s shot clanked off the rim and the Celtics walked off the floor with a 108-107 loss — the team’s second straight defeat.
Tatum took responsibility for his lack of creativity on that last-second attempt.
“That was on me. I should have put more pressure on the defense,” Tatum said.
“We were looking for a little bit of action off an entry they were denying. It went to Tatum at the top, and we had that as an option,” explained head coach Brad Stevens. “Tatum got separation, but that’s obviously a tough shot. But he made it the other day, and he’s one of our best players. Certainly, one of the guys you want the ball with the game on the line had the ball, so that was a positive, I guess.”
Tatum led the way for Boston with 25 points off 9-for-21 shooting. He was just 3-for-9 from three-point range, hitting 39 percent from downtown over the first three games of the season.
The fact that he jacked up a three with the Celtics trailing by just one point is another source of frustration among Celtics fans on Monday morning. With all that time on the clock, he could have made a break for the basket in an attempt to get to the line. But Tatum has not been getting to the line so far this season, with his four free throws on Sunday night his first freebies of the year.
“I take full blame. I didn’t play nearly as well as I needed to or I’m capable of and people expect of me,” added Tatum. “I’ll take that on the chin.”
The Celtics dropped to 1-2 with Sunday night’s loss, but they can shake it off Tuesday night with another tilt against the Pacers in Indiana. Boston had another chance to win a game on a dramatic, last-second attempt, but this time, Tatum’s shot didn’t fall.
Maybe next time, he’ll have a little more creativity to throw at the defense.