Jayson Tatum Sounds Off On Boston’s 4th Quarter Comeback

The Boston Celtics are in the driver’s seat after stealing Game 1 on the road thanks to an all-time fourth-quarter shellacking of the Warriors, outscoring Golden State 40-16 in the final frame.

For Boston to stay tight with the Warriors despite an off-night from Jayson Tatum (12 points on 3-17 shooting from the field, 1-5 from three-point range) bodes well for the Celtics. Tatum didn’t let his below-average scoring night deter him; the former Duke Blue Devil took over playmaking duties for Boston, matching Bob Cousey with a career-high and a Finals record-tying 13 assists in his Finals debut.

Tatum’s 13 dimes place him over Michael Jordan, Isaiah Thomas, and John Stockton, the previous single-game record-holders with 12.

“Ecstatic, right? Forty points in the fourth quarter? JB played big. Al, Payton (Pritchard), D-White. Those guys made big shots — timely shots as well. And we won, right?” Tatum said per The Athletic despite his off-night shooting. “I had a bad shooting night. I just tried to impact the game in other ways. We’re in the championship. We’re in the finals. All I was worried about was trying to get a win, and we did. That’s all that matters at this point.

“So I don’t expect to shoot that bad again. But if it means we keep winning, I’ll take it.”

Boston entered the fourth quarter down 12 points but was confident going into the final frame of Game 1. Jaylen Brown (24 points, seven rebounds, five assists) and Al Horford (26 points on a Finals-debut record 6-8 shooting from three) awarded that confidence by scoring 21 combined points. Horford powered the Celtics’ decisive 17-0 run with 14 points, knocking down back-to-back triples to take the lead.

At the same time, the Celtics held the Warriors scoreless for nearly five minutes, allowing Stephen Curry (34 points, five boards, five assists) to contribute four points and two dimes on 2-6 shooting from the field.

“The message at the start of the fourth was: We’ve been here before. We know what it takes to overcome a deficit like that,” Tatum said. “Obviously, that’s a great team. It’s not going to be easy. But just knowing we’ve been in that situation before, and we’ve gotten (ourselves) out of it. We had a lot of time left, right? It wasn’t time to hang your head or be done; it was time to figure it out.”

Brown and Horford’s excellence in the fourth quarter allowed Tatum not to feel like he had to force the issue. Instead, Tatum could focus on swinging the ball when it came his way, contest shots on defense, and sprint to the corners to create optimum spacing when Brown or Derrick White (21 points on 5-8 shooting from distance) pushed the tempo. It was Tatum who dimed Horford for his second straight triple that gave Boston a six-point lead late in the fourth.

According to Tatum’s trainer, Drew Hanlen, he’s been hammering the importance of Tatum learning to be a game manager since last summer.

“I think the biggest thing is the advice that Michael Jordan gave Kobe Bryant: At the end of the day, the only thing that people are going to judge you on is if you get the job done or not,” Hanlen said. “In past years, (Tatum’s) focus has been on scoring and being able to carry the load on the offensive end through scoring. Whereas now, it’s more so just reading what the defense is giving him, making the right play, not forcing shots, not taking ‘my turn’ shots, and really just getting everybody involved.”

Tatum’s acceptance of that development allowed him to simply keep playing fast with his teammates instead of trying to slow the game down after Golden State tied the game at 103 with a Curry finger-roll. Instead, Tatum initiated the sequence intended for a White corner three that eventually ended with Horford hitting his first back-breaking triple to retake the lead they wouldn’t look back on.

To top it off, Tatum finished a plus-27 in the fourth despite not scoring. His passes created 38 points in Game 1 per Synergy. Only one of his 13 dimes was a shot inside the arc.

“All year leading up to this, we’ve been kind of grooming and preparing Jayson for these moments where teams are going to key in on you so much that they try to take you out of the game,” Smart said. “For us, it’s just to make sure he stays confident and knows that even though they’re doing a good job on you, you still who you are, and we got your back. That’s what we are here for, to help you when times like that, to help you get going.”

The Boston Celtics’ usual formula for winning has usually allowed Tatum and Brown to lead them across the finish line. This time around, Tatum played second-fiddle to Brown and the Celtics’ collection of role players.

When the Celtics capped off their comeback win with a Horford and-1, Tatum baited the Warriors into blitzing him. Tatum subsequently got off the ball and gave Smart enough room to put the game away with the dime to Horford, which ultimately gave them a 120-105 lead with less than a minute to go.

Boston can take a 2-0 lead as the series shifts to TD Garden after Sunday’s Game 2.