Celtics Notes: Tatum, Tillman, Brown, Game 4

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum has made just 35.9% of his shots from the floor in the NBA Finals, including 29.6% of his three-pointers. While he has contributed in many other ways, including on the boards (8.7 RPG) and as a play-maker (7.3 APG), those poor shooting numbers have made teammate Jaylen Brown the odds-on favorite to be named Finals MVP, assuming Boston finishes off the Mavericks. That’s just fine with Tatum, as he tells Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report.

“Man, I want everybody to be at their best. I want everybody to contribute. Winning will take care of everything,” Tatum said. “Finals MVP or whatever, a champion is a champion. That’s the goal. I want for my teammates what I want for myself. I want everybody to shine. There’s enough attention for all of us. And so, I want everybody to give us theirs.”

Tatum has earned no shortage of individual accolades over the course of his seven-year career, including five All-Star berths, four All-NBA nods (including three as part of the First Team), an Eastern Conference Finals MVP (in 2022), and an All-Star Game MVP (2023). The one thing he feels as if his résumé is missing is a championship.

“I’ve been here before, and I know what it felt like to lose [in the Finals] and that was the worst feeling ever,” Tatum told Haynes. “That was the worst summer I ever had. I made the All-Star team five times. I’m All-NBA first team year after year. The only thing they said I haven’t done is win. I just vowed to myself that if I ever got back to the Finals, then I would literally do whatever I needed to do to ensure that we have a different outcome.”

Here’s more on the Celtics ahead of a potential close-out game on Friday:

  • Backup center Xavier Tillman averaged just 13.7 minutes per game after being sent to the Celtics at the trade deadline and hasn’t been a regular part of the postseason rotation, appearing in just six of the club’s first 16 playoff games. However, he came up big in Game 3 with Kristaps Porzingis unavailable, hitting a three-pointer, grabbing four rebounds, and blocking a pair of shots. Boston outscored Dallas by nine points in his 11 minutes of action. Al Horford said Tillman was “ready for the moment,” while Derrick White said the big man gave the team “big-time minutes,” per Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. “Obviously we’d love to have KP out there,” Brown said, according to Jay King of The Athletic. “We are different when he is. But X stepped in that role, and I thought he was great.”
  • Within his story on Tillman, Fischer says that more than a dozen teams had legitimate interest in the big man prior to the trade deadline. Tillman had heard the Suns were another “strong possibility” if he didn’t end up in Boston, Fischer adds.
  • After nearly letting a 21-point fourth quarter lead slip away in Game 3, the Celtics credited their past experiences on this stage as the reason they were able to buckle down and hang on for the victory, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “All year long we’ve been hearing about the Celtics are the past, for the last six to eight months, that’s all we’ve been hearing is all the different shortcomings we’ve had in the past,” Brown said. “This is a new team, you know what I mean. We’ve learned from those experiences. And in these moments, you can see that we learned from it. We stepped up to the plate, and we found a way to win.”
  • Both Brown and Tatum also pointed to last year’s postseason experience – which ended with a home loss to the No. 8 Heat – as a source of motivation this time around. “I mean, last year, just falling short on your home floor, it definitely hurt,” Brown said, per Bontemps. “It was embarrassing, in my opinion. I felt like the team was relying on me. JT got hurt in Game 7 and I dropped the ball. To me, it was embarrassing. It drove me all summer. Drove me crazy.”
  • Bontemps, Chris Herring, and Brian Windhorst of ESPN shared their biggest takeaways from Game 3 and weighed in on what to expect in Game 4.
View Comments (8)