Celtics’ Jayson Tatum issue subtle warning to Cavs for Game 4 after huge rebound win

Tony Nguyen | Boston Celtics
May 12, 2024

Through seven playoff games this year, Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum had failed to score 30 points or more in all of them. But when the C’s needed him to step up in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals versus the Cleveland Cavaliers, he delivered with 33 points en route to a 106-93 win on Saturday night.

In Games 1 and 2, Tatum combined for 43 points while shooting a rough 14-for-36 (38.8%) from the floor. The five-time All-Star looked more like himself in Game 3, converting on 11 of his 25 shot attempts, making all nine of his free throws, and notching 13 rebounds and six assists.

It wasn’t a perfect outing by any means, as the St. Louis native had some turnover trouble and couldn’t consistently connect from deep (2-for-8). However, his improved shotmaking and strong drives to the rim proved to be too much for the Cavs.

“This series is far from over. We responded after a loss and you know, [the Cavaliers are] gonna feel like they can play better,” Tatum told ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth following the double-digit win. “Some things we can go over in film tomorrow. Get some rest. Should be another fun one on Monday. It was a great atmosphere. And we’re looking forward to it.”

Boston now holds a 2-1 lead in the second-round series and will hope to snatch another win in Cleveland in Game 4.

Celtics went back to roots of being led by Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) and guard Jaylen Brown (7) react after a play against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first quarter during game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at TD Garden.
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Tatum’s fellow 2024 All-Star, Jaylen Brown, was also crucial in Saturday night’s tiebreaker.

The three-time All-Star finished with 28 points after going an incredible 13-for-17 from the field. He posted nine rebounds, three assists, and a steal as well.

“We have a really great team, but we know we only go as far as us two go,” Tatum said of his pairing with Brown, via ESPN’s broadcast. “That’s being the best player, the best teammates on both ends of the floor, and leading these guys every single night.”

Tatum and Brown combined for over half of Boston’s total points. Add in the 18 points from guard Jrue Holiday and that accounts for 79 out of the 106 points scored by the Green Team.

The other two starters, guard Derrick White and center Al Horford, didn’t have it offensively. They went a brutal 5-for-20 altogether and struggled from beyond the arc. If not for the trio of Tatum, Brown, and Holiday, the Cavs could’ve easily grabbed Game 3.

In fact, Cavs star Donovan Mitchell looked practically unstoppable at times. The five-time All-Star lit it up from 3-point land, hitting seven triples in 12 attempts. Cleveland’s go-to guy had a team-high 33 points and zero turnovers despite his high usage rate.

“We were managing the game really well, and I thought the shots that he hit weren’t necessarily game plan shots, but they were really tough shots,” Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said of Mitchell’s performance, per Jack Simone of CelticsBlog. “And so, you have to have a defensive poise to be able to withstand some of that … Throughout the game, we still threw some different stuff at him, but I thought our guys withstood that, and it’s a credit to them.”

Mitchell has shot 48% or better in each game of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. And through three contests, he’s averaging a whopping 31.6 points per outing. Although the Celtics are up in the series, slowing down Mitchell’s blistering offensive production remains a top priority.

On Sunday, Boston’s best defense against Mitchell was essentially offense. Unlike in Game 2, Tatum and Brown had enough in Game 3 to counter Mitchell, who had no teammate score over 17 points.

Another impressive effort from Boston’s dynamic duo would go a long way in Game 4, which tips off at 7 p.m. ET on Monday.