Can Jason Tatum Reach Jimmy Butler’s Level?

Jason Tatum moved as a relaxed man in the first half of Game One of the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals. After spending seven games staring at Giannis Antetokounmue and Brooke Lopez at the basket, the Celtics All-Star seemed to relish the opportunity to attack the Heat’s defense which, although excellent , except that it does not have the same size along the back line. Time and time again, Tatum caught the ball on the ocean and drove it hard, believing he could beat any Miami defender he drew on paint.

With Marcus Smart sidelined by a midfoot sprain he suffered late in the seventh game against Milwaukee and Al Horford a surprise scratch after entering COVID-19 NBA health and safety protocols, Boston needed Tatum to be as great in every ounce Tuesday as he is. He was outdone by Kevin Durant and Giannis. Over two quarters, he’s made: 21 points in a 9-for-14 shot, five assists, four rebounds, steals, a block, and a handful of other excellent defensive plays that don’t appear on the stats sheet. Players C went into the break by eight points because they had the best player on the floor, a player who looked free and confident. comfortable.

The thing is, though, they play two Two halves in the NBA. And Erik Spoelstra’s team came out of the locker room desperately determined to make sure that, no matter what Tatum and the rest of the Celtics experience for the rest of Game 1, “comfort” wouldn’t be an appropriate adjective to describe it.

“It’s crazy, because [Spoelstra] Heat star Jimmy Butler told reporters after the game. “We already knew what we had done wrong – turning the ball around, not coming back. So he talked about it, and we went out and said, ‘You know, we’re at home, we have to play better basketball.'” We have to play better as a team.” We did. I went on a short trip.”

Okey, no who – which A little-more like a 22-2 avalanche that completely flipped Match 1, dislodging the visitors C in their wake and setting the heat on the path to a 118-107 win. At the center of it all, as has been the case throughout the post-season, was Butler, who scored 11 points, directed four fouls, and secured two steals leading to choppy baskets in that dominant six-and-a-half minute period. As Spoelstra later told reporters, “Jimmy really inspired everyone.”

For Butler, inspiration tends to appear as sweat; Like his old boss in Chicago and Minnesota, he finds magic in action. The Heat didn’t get upset after trailing by as much as 13 in the second quarter and headed into the break with Tatum looking like God’s gift to Kelly Green. They kept grinding, pinpointing specific Celtics pain points whose absence of two starters forced them to play a mixed and thin spin, pressing them as hard as they could until they started to lock up.

Despite all the grumbling about whether Smart was the real general, he he is Boston guard. Tatum only keeps track of touches per game and possession time in the playoffs, and is the player most often responsible for bringing the ball and getting the Celtics into their groups. Horford is a patient and balanced conductor, able to keep the ball moving and out of the opponent’s hand, with the Celtics’ second best assist-to-turn ratio. Without these two constant warriors, trainer Amy Odoka would have had to rely more on Tatum and Jaylene Brown to kickstart possessions and creativity; They’ve made strides as ball coaches and playmakers, but the combination of constant heat ball pressure and some miserable deliveries led to eight massive turnarounds in the third quarter of the Boston Star Wings. Six of them belong to Tatum, who crashed hard after playing all but 73 seconds of the first half less than two days after concluding a seven-game streak averaging 41 minutes per game. He went 1 for 7 off the field with only one pass in the second half.

Those turnarounds helped bolster Miami’s quick play — 1.33 points per transition in Game 1, according to Cleaning the Glass, in line with the Heat-in-the-NBA streak for the entire season — which in turn helped open the wide open on Miami’s half offense. court. (Pam Adebayo said after the game: “The edge just becomes an ocean when you start running with a transition.”) Ease always seems to be the case, which is why another effect of Smart’s absence downstream — Odoka gives 30 minutes of running to Payton Pritchard, the guard. Next up after Derek White moved to the smart starting point – it became a huge problem for Boston.

Butler ruthlessly chased after Pritchard whenever he was on the floor, particularly in the fourth quarter, and called his man to adjust the screens to make sure the 6-foot-1 sophomore was at work and brought up the mismatch over and over:

When Miami needed to tighten the screws defensively, Butler was there to increase the pressure and create turnovers that held back Boston’s buzzing attack before the break. When Miami needed the points in the third set – first to cut short the Celtics’ lead, then later to halt the 9-0 Celtics series that brought them back within three points after a big 22-2 blast – Butler was making his way to the paint, draw the connection, and run up the line . “I love fitness,” Butler said after the match. “Like, I want to meet people and see who falls first — who quits first.”

When Miami needed baskets to put the game on ice, there was Butler, who scored or assisted in 16 of the Heat’s last 22 points in the final eight and a half minutes to secure the W, and when anyone needed a reminder of his presence. two Players in this series with the legitimate claim that they are the best player in it…

…there was a butler, putting some ranked punctuation at the end of another exceptional performance: 41 points on a 12-for-19 shot from the field and 17 for 18 from the line for nine rebounds, five assists, four shots, and three blocks in 41 minutes huge.

“Every time and in a pocket in the game when we needed to control the game, get the right shot, or make the right decision, Jimmy had his mark on it. … If you’re motivated by competition, and the stakes are up, you’ll raise your bar,” Spoelstra said. In play.” It’s not about trying to get bigger numbers. It’s about doing what’s needed.”

This is Tatum’s level Could you It arrives, as evidenced by a Game 6 masterpiece against Giannis and his gang opening half Tuesday. It’s something he’ll have to approach more consistently from now on, as he appears to be the only player Jamie – averaging 29.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.3 steals per game in the postseason on 54/35/83 shooting split. , and some, although it’s not about that friggin numbers are too big—He is working now.

What is needed from Boston now is to highlight the positivity – there was a lot of post-game chatter about how C won the first, second and fourth quarters, which means they would have been in great shape had they not been eliminated by 25 In the third – we hope you get the best of health and recharge as soon as possible.

A clever return to the field would take Pritchard out of it, clear Butler’s most fertile hunting grounds, and relieve the pressure of handling on Tatum and Brown. Taking Horford back would add another credible shooter and playmaker to the front yard to occupy Adebayo, who was a middle-aged monster in the second half, and reduce Udoka’s dependence on Daniel Theis and Grant Williams, who went on to star in Game 7. Attempt two 3-pointers and pick up five fouls. Character. When Boston gets these guys back – and especially if the C’s can keep Robert Williams third on the field and create two-way chaos – this series will look very different.

The Heat already has one in the bank, plus the game’s 7 local stadiums feature if it comes to that. It is likely that Horford Staying in the COVID protocols through Game 2. The Smart case remains in the air as well. Odoka said before the game that this year’s defensive player’s foot was still too painful and swollen to do anything more than “limited basketball moves.”

If neither Smart nor Horford can go on Thursday, Tatum and Brown will have to be better than they did in Game 1. And if they don’t have more in the gas tank than they did the first time after playing 44 and 43 minutes, on Respectively, then Butler, Pam and the rest of the Heat and the gang may already be halfway through to the Finals before the Celtics strong side get a chance to step onto the field.

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