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A bad shooting night doesn’t faze Celtics star Jayson Tatum

Jayson Tatum struggled to score in Game 1 but In games immediately following those in which he shot 30 percent or worse, Tatum connected on a blistering 55.1 percent of his attempts.Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

SAN FRANCISCO — The Celtics have shown remarkable consistency during their run to the NBA Finals. They have not lost consecutive games during these playoffs, and their last two-game losing streak came on March 30. That setback deserves a significant asterisk, too, because the first loss in that pairing, against the Raptors, came without Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Al Horford.

Before that, Boston last lost two in a row on Jan. 19 and 21, and guard Marcus Smart missed both of those games and center Robert Williams sat out one. Time and again, this team has bounced back from frustrating nights quickly, ensuring that one bad game would not swell into something more.


It should come as no surprise, then, that the team’s superstar has mirrored this tendency with his own performances.

Tatum, a first-team All-NBA choice, has connected on fewer than 30 percent of his shots in 13 games this season, including the playoffs. For many players, a grisly night of shooting could signal the start of a slump, or at least dent confidence. But Tatum has shrugged and resumed throwing darts through the hoop.

In games immediately following those in which he shot 30 percent or worse, Tatum connected on a blistering 55.1 percent of his attempts.

“Once you’ve done something before, you know how to respond,” Tatum said Saturday. “I’ve had some bad shooting nights in the NBA. So it’s like, I’ve been here before. I know what to do next game. I think a lot of it is mental. You don’t let it creep into your mind. I can’t do nothing about what happened last game. I missed those shots and it is what it is. It’s all about how to prepare and get ready for the next one.”

For the Celtics, this encouraging trend is especially relevant now. In Game 1 of the Finals against the Warriors on Thursday night, Tatum made just 3 of 17 shots.


His second attempt was an air-ball that missed the rim by more than a foot, and he followed that up with a pair of free throws that bounced out. While his teammates erupted for 40 points in their fierce fourth quarter, Tatum was held scoreless, going 0 for 3.

It was hardly the shooting performance he was hoping for in his Finals debut. But it did not prove to be damaging.

The Celtics surged back from a 15-point second-half deficit anyway and rolled to a 120-108 road win to seize early control of this series. And although Tatum’s shooting was clunky, he was impactful in other ways, such as registering a game-high 13 assists.

“I feel like I made the right play more often than not,” Tatum said. “You know, it’s not much to overthink. I feel like it was a lot of shots, the open shots that I missed that more often than not I make.

“So it’s not something that I’m losing sleep over. You know, we won. That was most important, right? It’s the Finals. That’s all that matters. Obviously, I know I’ve got to play better. I can’t shoot like that every game and hope we win. I expect to play better shooting-wise, but just impacting the game in different ways to do my part, and let’s get a win. I will continue to do that.”


Tatum was certainly the focus of Golden State’s defense. The Warriors sprinkled in box-and-one and zone sets to try to keep him off-balance. They showed him a crowd, just as every other opponent has during these playoffs.

“I’m certain they don’t want me to play one-on-one,” he said.

But his night was mostly pushed off-course with bad luck. He made just 2 of 11 uncontested field goals. The problem for Golden State was that the rest of Boston’s team had no such issues. Celtics other than Tatum combined to drain 58.5 percent of their uncontested shots, and they made 20 of 36 3-pointers overall.

Afterward, Warriors forward Draymond Green was among those who believed that onslaught was an unfortunate aberration. But it was probably enough to force the Warriors to adjust and pay more attention to Boston’s open shooters. That approach would likely create more space for Tatum, and as he has shown all season, he will be prepared to bounce back.

“I don’t expect to shoot that bad again,” he said. “But if it means we keep winning, I’ll take it.”

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.