LOS ANGELES — The Celtics have long been about sacrifice to start the season — and for good reason. They’ve been praised for having one of the most talented top-6 rotations in the league. But there are only so many possessions to go around, so counting stats have been down across the board.
As expected, though, the Celtics keep picking up victories armed with their talented roster. Their most recent data point is the 126-115 win over the Lakers on Christmas Day where they finished off another impressive victory.
Kristaps Porzingis rightfully got his kudos after his 28-point, 11-rebound performance. Elsewhere, Jayson Tatum also gets credit as he finished with 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. The shots weren’t going down as he finished 6-for-15 and 1-of-6 on 3-pointers, but he impacted the game in other ways. It’s why his performance earned some acclaim from C’s coach Joe Mazzulla.
“That’s what we talk about when he’s got to reinvent,” Mazzulla said. “It’s not so much sacrifice as it is reinvent. You’re starting to see what leadership looks like and what value looks like for him. … And so it’s just not being defined by just scoring, but being defined by playmaking. Being defined by how do you create advantages for your teammates and yourself.”
Of course, Tatum’s game is still evolving. He’s already in his seventh season in the NBA, but he’s still only 25 years old, meaning his game is far from a finished product. As seen Monday, his shot isn’t always going to go in. But he complemented his game by getting to the free throw line, going 12-for-13 to help his scoring numbers and the Celtics.
If the current pace continues, Tatum won’t improve on his counting stats like he’s done every season he’s been in the league. But there are certainly bits and pieces where Tatum has added to his game as a basketball player. The playmaking is one, but he’s also added some muscle to bang low in the post. That’s all to say the Celtics will hope he can keep developing as it’s crucial for their championship hopes.
“As a younger player, just always trying to find ways to impact the game,” Tatum said. “You’re not always going to make shots, but still want to be the best player and dominate the game in different ways every single night. So that’s what I tried to do tonight.”