Celtics star Jayson Tatum hasn’t played to his usual standards through four games of the NBA Finals, but Warriors forward Draymond Green — who has grilled his share of beef with Celtics fans — believes Tatum has still been integral to the Celtics’ success.
Tatum is yet to explode for one of his iconic games, even though he’s shooting 43 percent from deep in the Finals. The Warriors have made Tatum’s life difficult around the rim and have largely kept him off the line — he is yet to take double-digit free throws through four games.
But limiting Tatum comes at a price — he improved drastically as a facilitator this season and has averaged nearly eight assists per game in Finals including 11 in the two Celtics victories.
So while Tatum could shoot better, Green remains impressed.
“It’s tough,” Green said. “You’re experiencing something for the first time. I think he’s handled it well. He’s maybe not shot the ball as well as he’d like or everyone else would like, but overall I think he’s been playing well, and that’s why it’s a 2-2 series, coming back for Game 5.
“I think he’s handling it all extremely well. He’s taking what the defense gives him, and that’s what great players do. But I think he’s doing a good job.”
Tatum — who has often expressed appreciation for the NBA’s greatest players and his own desire to join their ranks — was asked how much pressure he feels now that he’s in the Finals.
“I guess the same amount of pressure I’ve always had,” he said. “You know, it’s not something that I like, you know, go to sleep thinking about, wake up. Obviously I want to win by any means necessary and I’ll do whatever it takes.
“That’s all I really care about right now is winning. Whether you win or you don’t win, you guys will debate rankings or, you know, what does that matter for your legacy and things like that. That’s kind of not up to me. You know, in this moment, I’ve said it, I felt like every day, just trying to do what I can to impact winning by all costs.”
Green, meanwhile, has struggled enormously on the offensive end. Steve Kerr isn’t particularly worked up about it.
“Everybody is locked in on his scoring,” Kerr said. “Scoring has always been kind of the last thing that we need from him. We need his defense, his energy, his force, his competitiveness. Down the stretch of the game, he made huge plays at both ends.”
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