Celtics’ Jayson Tatum Gets ‘Warning’ on NBA Finals Fatigue


Jayson Tatum of the Celtics

There’s a lot going on here in the NBA Finals with Celtics forward Jayson Tatum. He’s playing through a shoulder spike, which is clearly bothering him and affecting his ability to finish on the edge. He’s also playing more intensely than ever before in the NBA postseason, showing the effects of fatigue as games progress.

In fact, nobody has played more minutes in these playoffs than Tatum, who has 943 minutes to his name. Jaylen Brown is second on the list with 876 minutes. Al Horford is third with 776. A non-Celtic only appears in fourth place, because Klay Thompson from the Warriors has completed 751 minutes in the playoffs.

But maybe Tatum can learn a lesson here. “If you want to win the Finals, you have to be in top-notch physical condition,” an Eastern Conference coach told Heavy.com. “Often you don’t really understand that until you get there. You see what happens with guys when you’re in the finals, shows you what you need to do to get to the next level and I think that’s where Tatum is now – he just sees that he has that certain something Must do extra to be elite.

“His conditioning is good, no one is complaining about his work ethic from what I’ve heard. He should take it as a warning, as a lesson. If you want to win, you have to do it in the offseason.”

Tatum faded in the 4th quarter in the final

In fact, Tatum was never out of shape. He was one of the best players in the NBA’s fourth quarter this season, averaging 7.0 points (fourth among players who played at least half of their teams’ games) and 45.3% shooting. He was also good in the fourth quarter for much of the postseason until he reached the NBA Finals. In five games, he averaged just 3.2 points on 23.8% shots from the field against Golden State.

Heavy.com insider Steve Bulpett, who has covered the Celtics since 1986, said he believes there’s more going on with Tatum than just his body.

“I think he’s pretty well prepared. He’s not a guy who’s out of shape at all, he’s not a guy who doesn’t work on things year-round, Bulpett said. “When we say fatigue, we’re talking about physical fatigue,” he said. “I think what happens, you see teams when they miss a couple of shots, all of a sudden it affects the defense, their shoulders drop, it drains them. I think you see a lot of that.”

Udoka Submitted Game 5 Fatigue Factor

Celtics coach Ime Udoka was asked about fatigue after Game 5 as the Celtics fell apart in the fourth quarter and were surpassed 29-20 after a big rally in the third quarter. He had played 44 minutes into the game and the entire second half against Tatum (and Jaylen Brown). After shooting 9-for-15 for 22 points in the first three quarters, Tatum scored five points on 1-for-5 shooting in the fourth quarter.

“We obviously let them run longer to get back into the game in the third,” Udoka said. “It looked like our decision making slacked off a bit in the fourth. Could be from that. We didn’t get much production from the bank. Went with them a little longer as they brought us back in and tried to use the time off for their rest.

“I got away from that a bit which got us back in the game in the third. Decision making and fatigue could be part of it, the reason for it.”

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