MIAMI — Despite being 15th in the NBA in scoring, Jayson Tatum is mired in a major shooting slump.
While the Celtics (3-5) snapped a three-game losing streak with a 92-79 win against Orlando on Wednesday, Tatum was just 4-for-16 shooting and 1 of 6 from the 3-point line.
Since his 41-point game at Charlotte on Oct. 25, Tatum is 22-for-70 shooting (31.4 percent) and has missed 20 of 23 3-point attempts. What’s more, the career 83.7 percent free throw shooter has converted just 19 of 27 during this skid.
On Wednesday, Tatum tried getting himself going from the 3-point line, which didn’t work. Finally he attacked the basket and tied his season high with eight free throw attempts. Tatum entered this season primed to make an All-NBA bid and vie for a third All-Star appearance, but his offensive issues have been a major contributor to the Celtics’ slow start.
“One way is always to get him easy baskets,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said of remedies for Tatum. “But at times the post-ups might not be the easiest thing, taking the tough contested fadeaway shot, that’s not always a great shot. But also get to the free throw line. But myself and my staff feel he’s had great looks.”
Udoka said his analytical staff has looked at Tatum’s shot attempts and he is uncharacteristically missing shots he usually makes. For example, Tatum shot 57.4 percent last season on layups compared with 41.4 percent this season.
Tatum made 38 percent of his 3-pointers from 25 to 29 feet last season. That percentage has dipped to 25.6 this season. Finally on standard 2-point jump shots, Tatum made 39 percent last season but 34.2 percent this season.
“Across the board he’s been getting looks he’s been knocking down his whole career,” Udoka said. “He’s just not making them. We don’t expect that to continue. He’s been getting great, wide-open looks and he’ll hit those eventually.”
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra has known Udoka and most of his coaching staff for years, as they all share the Portland connection. Spoelstra played at the University of Portland and is close with Celtics assistant Damon Stoudamire, who was a Portland high school standout. Udoka and assistant coaches, Aaron Miles and Ben Sullivan are also Portland natives.
“I’ve known Ime for a while and I think his story is great,” Spoelstra said. “All the basketball experiences he’s had overseas as a player and obviously coaching with the Spurs for so many years, it just makes him such a qualified coach and I feel like I know his staff really well.
“It’s a prerequisite; you have to be from Portland. These are all the guys that I knew. I think they have a really talented staff and Ime’s a great leader.”
Spoelstra said he believes Stoudamire, who coached at University of the Pacific before accepting the Celtics position, is destined to be an NBA head coach.
“I think it’s great Damon’s gotten into coaching,” Spoelstra said. “He was a really successful college coach. I think he’s also meant to be at this level, too. I think he’s going to be great as a mentor to young players and eventually he’ll become a head coach. He’s absolutely obsessed with the game and he’s fun to talk to. He really studies it.”
Said Udoka: “I grew up in Portland and watched [Spoelstra] and Damon Stoudamire playing in pro-ams growing up and I got to know him better in my years in coaching.”
The Celtics were without former Heat draft pick Josh Richardson with a left foot contusion sustained in Wednesday’s win over Orlando. It’s the second game he’s missed this season. Udoka said Richardson will get X-rays but the team doesn’t think the injury is serious … Former Celtics’ two-way player Max Strus is in the Heat’s rotation two years after Boston waived him to make room for Javonte Green … Udoka complemented third-year swingman Tyler Herro, who is the Heat’s second-leading scorer despite coming off the bench. Herro is second on the team in minutes played.