Saturday's 103-101 loss to the Bucks featured a poor performance from Jayson Tatum, who finished with ten points on 4/19 (21.1 percent) shooting, including going 0/6 from beyond the arc.
Not one to make excuses, after the game, when asked about the pain in his left wrist, Tatum responded: "Yeah, but that's something I've been dealing with for probably like, two months now," adding that it wasn't any worse than it has been.
Interestingly enough, in a game where he never found his rhythm, he scored the first points of Game 3, jab-stepping Jrue Holiday to get him off balance, leaning right, then driving middle for a floater in the paint. The Celtics need more of this version of Tatum on Monday.
Here, the Celtics run Chicago action, meaning Payton Pritchard gets the ball to Tatum -- usually, it's with a dribble handoff, but the bounce pass serves the same function. Pritchard then sets the first half of the staggered screens for Tatum with Al Horford behind him. The Bucks try to switch, but Horford picks off George Hill. Giannis Antetokounmpo hangs back to protect against the drive, and Tatum steps into an open three.
However, not only did he speed himself up, he operated from a narrow base, and as Tatum loads up, he brings the ball into his lap, and his arms brush against the sides of his upper body. Missing off the front rim on an open shot like this involves a lack of luck, but that doesn't tell the whole story.
Getting Tatum transition opportunities like the play below is an avenue that can get him in rhythm and translate to him playing more aggressively in the half-court.
Here, Tatum spins middle and gets by Wesley Matthews. Grayson Allen should be lower and further over so that he's better suited to slow down Tatum's drive, especially with Marcus Smart hanging back to make himself more available for an outlet pass. Instead, Tatum gets into the paint, takes off from the semicircle below the free-throw line, and softly hoists a floater Antetokounmpo blocks when the ball is on the way down.
The Celtics needed to execute better to win this game and credit the Bucks for making more plays Saturday, but considering this should've been ruled goaltending and Boston lost by two, the missed call stings.
There was also bad luck in the form of the three-time All-Star missing open shots despite a sound process. On a positive note, that shot will be there in Game 4.
Shots like the one afforded to Tatum on the play above can get him going on Monday or help him sustain his rhythm. Much like how Jaylen Brown got himself going in Game 2 by attacking off the dribble to score from the mid-range, paving the way for him generating 17 points in the first quarter.
Another way to get a more impactful version of Tatum, something the Celtics will need to avoid coming home on the brink of elimination, is to find mismatches for him to attack.
When this drive is well-defended, Tatum kicks the ball out to Horford in the near-side corner and relocates, bringing Bobby Portis with him. Horford quickly gets the ball back to Tatum, and he rips through, drives baseline, and muscles his way to an uncontested reverse layup.
Tatum also passed up a number of quality scoring chances in the paint, including at the rim. That led to him having as many turnovers as assists (3) and Milwaukee scoring 11 points off those mistakes.
After the game, he acknowledged: "I was probably just thinking a little too much."
He went on to say: "There were a couple of shots I should have took. I was trying to make passes, but I need to be better about making the right play."
Sunday, when asked what the Celtics have to do to get Tatum going, Ime Udoka replied: "Take what the game gives him." He then mentioned that doing so takes a team effort, citing the need to set effective screens for Tatum, especially when considering the physical nature of how the Bucks are defending him on the perimeter.
The points of emphasis are clear for Tatum and the Celtics. Now, it's a matter of operating instinctively rather than overthinking it, playing with poise, and capitalizing on the favorable opportunities that creates for them.