Coming off another early playoff exit, the Boston Celtics have started the 2020-21 campaign by winning seven of their first 10 games. But on Saturday, Jayson Tatum suffered a brutal COVID-19 blow that leaves a gaping hole in Boston’s starting lineup.
Moving forward, Jaylen Brown will have to carry an even bigger load for a team that only has three double-digit scorers. Can one of the NBA’s biggest rising stars take his game to another level? Or will the Celtics struggle to maintain their winning record with their most important player sidelined?
Boston has been on a roll ever since the calendar turned to 2021
Although their time in the bubble didn’t end with a title, the Celtics watched Jaylen Brown emerge as a legitimate star. So far, the 24-year-old has looked like the team’s best player during the early part of the season.
The 6-foot-6, 223-pound small forward has averaged 26.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.7 steals in 10 games. Brown’s ability to score from anywhere on the court has played a significant role in Boston’s 7-3 start.
Of course, the former lottery pick has a talented running mate in Jayson Tatum. Coming off a sensational season of his own, the 6-foot-8, 210-pound forward has also improved his numbers.
Tatum has averaged nearly 27 points per game in his age-22 campaign. The long-limbed scoring machine has averaged a career-high 7.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists during Boston’s hot start.
On Friday, the duo shined in the team’s 116-107 win against the Washington Wizards. Tatum led the way with 32 points on 14-of-27 shooting. Brown contributed 27 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, and two steals in 37 minutes. Plus, exciting rookie Payton Prichard provided 11 points off the bench.
Unfortunately for the Celtics, their next victory will be much more difficult to earn based on the COVID-19 blow they just suffered.
The Celtics just suffered a brutal COVID-19 blow
In the midst of the most productive campaign of his impressive NBA career, Jayson Tatum experienced a significant setback on Saturday.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported via Twitter that the All-Star forward is expected to miss between 10 to 14 days as he enters quarantine due to the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Longtime NBA reporter Mark Murphy later reported via Twitter that Tatum tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday. However, the 22-year-old reportedly has no symptoms.
Given his importance to the team, Tatum’s absence will force the Celtics to reshuffle their lineup in the interim. Obviously, it won’t be possible to completely replace his elite production. But with Brown playing the best basketball of his career, that could help Boston survive with Tatum unavailable.
However, based on their upcoming schedule, the Celtics will need their non-stars to step up while their best player battles the coronavirus.
Can Boston survive without Jayson Tatum in the lineup?
With Jayson Tatum sidelined by COVID-19, the Celtics face an arduous path to keep pace in the Eastern Conference.
Here’s a look at Boston’s upcoming schedule:
- January 10 – Miami (home)
- January 12 – Chicago (away)
- January 13 – Orlando (home)
- January 15 – Orlando (home)
- January 17 – New York (home)
- January 20 – at Philadelphia
- January 22 – at Philadelphia
Despite their underwhelming the record, the Miami Heat obviously know what it takes to beat the Celtics. Erik Spoelstra’s squad ended Boston’s NBA title dreams back in the bubble thanks to some terrific performances by Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro.
While the Bulls don’t look like a formidable threat, the Celtics face a tough opponent twice in a three-day span later next week. The Orlando Magic have started the season by winning six of their first nine games. Although Markelle Fultz recently tore his ACL, the team still has plenty of quality scoring options.
Finally, a two-game series against the Philadelphia 76ers looms large. Can Tatum return in time to help Jaylen Brown take on the duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons?
If not, the rest of Boston’s roster will have to put forth back-to-back wall-to-wall efforts to leave The City of Brotherly Love with at least one victory.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.