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Jayson Tatum has proven he can put up the big numbers for the Boston Celtics. Now it’s time to show he can put up a banner. Nobody finished with more points in the NBA this season than Tatum, but Boston’s second season begins Saturday. Tatum really needs to step it up this postseason if he wants to avoid a repeat of last year.

For Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics, the real games begin Saturday

Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics reacts during the first quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center on April 4, 2023, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images.

This is the moment Tatum and the Celtics have been waiting for. After coming up short in last season’s NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, they’ve been talking about redemption.

“I’m just happy to be back playing basketball after the summer,” Tatum told Abby Chin of NBC Sports Boston early this season. “After losing in the Finals, all I could think about was just get ready to play again and start a new chapter.

“Said it a million times that it was a long, miserable summer, so I just wanted to get back out here and compete. I just want to win — don’t care about how many points I score. I just want to get back to that point.”

Well, he certainly scored his share of points, leading the league with 2,225. Now, he needs to take the Celtics one step further than where they went a year ago.

For most of this season, the Celtics held the best record in the NBA. They faltered a bit down the stretch with ugly losses to the Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, and Washington Wizards. The Milwaukee Bucks capitalized and ended the season with the top seed in the East, one game ahead of the Celtics.

The Celtics begin the opening round of the postseason on Saturday. They’ll face the winner of Tuesday’s play-in game between the Miami Heat and the Atlanta Hawks.

Tatum and the Celtics have to take the next step

Last year, Tatum and the Celtics made the leap. They had reached the Eastern Conference Finals multiple times but never got over the hump to get to the Finals. After a grueling series with the Bucks in the conference semis, the Celtics outlasted the top-seeded Heat on the road in Game 7 to reach the championship round.

During Boston’s postseason run last year, Tatum was more bad than good. To his credit, he came through when his team needed him most.

In Game 6 on the road in Milwaukee, with his team trailing 3-2 in the series, Tatum was at his best. In a win-or-go-home game, he lit up the scoreboard for 46 points on 17-for-32 shooting. He made seven of 15 three-pointers as Boston forced Game 7 with a 108-95 victory.

In the three games before Tatum’s Game 6 heroics, he combined to shoot 5-for-27 from three-point land. In Game 3 in Milwaukee, a 103-101 loss, Tatum finished with 10 points on 4-for-19 shooting.

Tatum had another Game 3 clunker in the conferencee finals against the Heat. In a 109-103 loss that put the Celtics in a 2-1 series deficit, he had 10 points and six turnovers. He made just three of 14 shots. Turnovers became a big problem for him in the series. He finished with seven in Game 2.

Bottom line is Tatum needs to be better than he was last year for the Celtics to reach their goal of winning a championship. He needs to be more consistent and take care of the ball. The Celtics got a chance to see what it was like to play for a title last year. Now, it’s time for them to win one.


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