Celtics forward Jayson Tatum wins Eastern Conference Player of the Month
by Brian Garland
The Boston Celtics cruised through the month of February with a 9-3 record off the outbreak of third-year superstar Jayson Tatum, who turned 22 on March 3. He finished the month with career-highs in scoring and assists, averaging 30.7 points and eight rebounds per game in February, with key performances against the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder, some of the NBA’s top competition.
Tatum’s rise to stardom is marked by his increase in three-point shooting, increased confidence and a tenacity to drive to the rim to apply pressure on opposing defenses. Tatum’s prolific scoring is a result of his 80 percent shooting on free throws and 40 percent shooting from three-point range, and defenses are having trouble playing one-on-one defense with Tatum. On switches, Tatum drives right past them or makes an intelligent pass to find an open player.
He produced a career highlight reel almost every game in February, such as a dunk over LeBron James, seven 30+-point performances, and three double-doubles. Best of all, is how he plays off of his teammates.
“The kid [Tatum] is special. Just ask LeBron James,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
At the age of 21, Tatum became the youngest Celtics player since Paul Pierce to appear in an NBA All-Star Game. The success expects to continue with Celtics point guard Kemba Walker closer to returning from injury, likely creating new and open looks for Tatum, as it figures that opposing defenses are done trying to cover Tatum one-on-one.
At the start of March, the Celtics are 41-18 (as of March 3), good for third in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics are receiving praise as a potential championship contender, though their youth is one common criticism. Boston takes on the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks on the road on March 12, a potential preview for the Eastern Conference Finals. In the meantime, Jayson Tatum continues his breakout season.
Brian Garland is the Sports Editor of The Comment.