Boston Celtics: Brad Stevens Puts Jayson Tatum’s Finals Struggles in Perspective

The Boston Celtics are fresh off their best season in more than a decade, yet much of the talk has been about the struggles of Jayson Tatum. The Celtics star was inconsistent throughout the playoffs and had a poor showing in the 2022 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

Tatum knows he struggled. Brad Stevens saw it. Stevens, the former coach who took over for the resigned Danny Ainge as the team’s president of basketball operations, recently put Tatum’s tough showing in perspective.

Brad Stevens had a message for Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum after the NBA Finals

Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics high-fives head coach Brad Stevens in the second half against the Minnesota Timberwolves at TD Garden on April 9, 2021, in Boston, Massachusetts. | Kathryn Riley/Getty Images.

When you’re considered the team’s star, you get much of the glory and most of the criticism. Tatum saw both sides during Boston’s magical run this year. He took criticism from Marcus Smart early in the season as the team struggled its way to a 25-25 record. Tatum then got much of the credit during Boston’s 26-6 finish to the regular season.

He helped guide the team to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics had the toughest run through the postseason, but they swept the Brooklyn Nets, knocked off the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, and then ousted the top-seeded Miami Heat in seven games.

After losing to the Warriors in six games, a tough series for Tatum, Stevens had a message for him.

“I just told him to go on vacation. Go get some rest,” Stevens said Tuesday, per WEEI.

“This guy gave us everything he had. When you look at the minutes, when you look at the games played, I’ve said this many times — he’s a superstar that doesn’t want to sit. He wants to play all the time. In the Finals, obviously, I think he would be the first to say that he’d like to have some of those moments back, but there were other contributing factors.

“We had several guys that really struggled in the Finals. I thought their defense was excellent, I thought our O got stagnant, and I thought that the challenge of the long year adds up.”

Stevens put Tatum’s struggles in perspective

Tatum’s ugly performance in the NBA Finals doesn’t overshadow what he did for the Celtics this season. Boston ran into a better team and lost. It’s simple. Stevens also made a simple point regarding Tatum, putting his tough showing in perspective.

“I think we’re very cognizant of the fact that even though Jayson admittedly did not play his best series, there’s no chance that we’re there without him and without all of his great play all the way through,” Stevens said.

“I think back all the time to Game 6 in Milwaukee. It was one of the best games I’ve seen an individual play in my time, certainly in person, and certainly with the Celtics. Without that performance, we would’ve had this discussion a month and a half ago.”

Tatum’s struggles happened to take place on the game’s biggest stage. He also had his best game of the postseason in that Game 6 against Milwaukee. With Boston facing elimination on the road, Tatum carried the team. He finished with 46 points and dominated from start to finish.

Stevens is right. Without that performance in Milwaukee, there is no NBA Finals for Boston. He may have struggled in the championship round, but Tatum and the Celtics surpassed all expectations this year.

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