Are we sure Jayson Tatum is 19 years old?
The Boston Celtics rookie forward was thrown into the fire early in his NBA career when star forward Gordon Hayward suffered a terrible ankle injury in the season opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers. With Hayward out, Tatum has been tasked with being Boston’s starting small forward and he has been nothing short of impressive.
At 19, Tatum should be a sophomore in college, and instead, he’s been one of the most clutch players in the NBA.
Through 28 games, the Duke product now ranks 11th in the NBA in clutch-time points with 39 after he hit a huge 3-pointer to close out the Celtics’ 91-81 win over the Detroit Pistons.
Boston saw its 18-point lead trimmed to five with under two minutes to go in the game, but the C’s first-round draft pick didn’t flinch when the game was on the line.
A defensive breakdown by the Pistons left Tatum open on the wing for a 3-pointer. The C’s swung the ball around the perimeter to Tatum, and the young forward buried the trey to seal the win for Boston.
Tatum trails, among others, LeBron James, teammate Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook in clutch-time scoring, but only is one point behind C.J. McCollum and Khris Middleton who are tied for 10th with 40 points.
“Some people have it and some people don’t,” Irving said after the game, per ESPN’s Chris Forsberg. “It’s just as simple as that. I think he’s pretty much shown that he can play, as people say, with the big boys at the end of the game.”
That 3-pointer by Tatum moved his season 3-point percentage to 51.8 percent, which leads the NBA.
After scoring 11 points Saturday, the rookie now has scored double digits in 25 of his 28 career games. For comparison, Jaylen Brown scored in double figures in only 22 of 78 games in his rookie season.
Tatum was the most polished scorer in the 2017 NBA Draft class, and that has translated to the NBA level. He can score at all three levels while doing everything else coach Brad Stevens asks of him.
Here are more notes from Celtics-Pistons:
— The Celtics now have held their opponents to less than 90 points in seven games this season. They accomplished that feat just six times all of last season.
— Detroit’s 81 points is the lowest total scored by a C’s opponent this season.
— Boston now has won its last four games following a loss.