BOSTON — Jayson Tatum had a simple fix for the Boston Celtics to bounce back with a win in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday night — he just needs to play better.
“I mean, I give [the Golden State Warriors] credit,” Tatum said after Boston’s 107-97 loss to Golden State in Game 4 at TD Garden on Friday night, which tied the series at 2-2. “They’re a great team. They play well. They have a game plan, things like that.
“But it’s on me. I have to be better. I know I impact the game in other ways, but I have to be more efficient, shoot the ball better, finish on the rim better.
“I take responsibility for it.”
Tatum hasn’t played at the level he set for himself in this series. He’s shooting 34% from the field, and while he passed the ball beautifully in Boston’s two wins, compiling 22 assists and four turnovers, he has nine assists and 10 turnovers in their two losses.
Tatum, along with the rest of the Celtics, shorted in the fourth quarter on Friday night, making just two shots in the final seven minutes. That allowed Golden State to close the game with a 21-6 run, turning the score in their favor to even the series.
“We obviously felt like we were putting ourselves in a position to win the game,” said Tatum, who was 1 for 5 in the fourth quarter. “There are a lot of things we would have liked to have done differently, especially on the attacking side. I think we got too stagnant at the end of the fourth on everyone’s part.”
It all, however, starts with Tatum, who earned MVP honors in the Eastern Conference Finals and is the face of the Celtics franchise. He’s been shown as the opposite number to Warriors star Stephen Curry throughout this streak, but on the court Curry has been second to none.
That was certainly the case in Game 4, when Curry had 43 points, 10 rebounds and four assists and dominated every second he was on the court. Tatum’s night, meanwhile, was emblematic of Boston’s poor decision-making for much of the game. He had five turnovers and was a big part of the team’s stagnant attack down the stretch.
When asked if he was putting too much pressure on himself, Tatum said no and that he just had to be better.
“I think it’s as simple as it gets,” he said. “I just have to be better. I know I can be better, so it’s not like me, myself or my team asking me to do something that I’m not capable of. They know the level and I know the level that I can play at.
“It’s kind of up to me to do it more often to help my team the best I can. It’s not too much pressure at all. It’s kind of like my job.”
When asked what he’s seen of Tatum so far in this series, Celtics coach Ime Udoka pointed to his foul hunting instead of trying to finish by contact.
“Sometimes he looks for fouls,” Udoka said. “It’s a team that charges in some games. He finds the outlets. Shooting two, three guys. It’s the balance between being aggressive and picking his spots and doing what he’s done in previous games. , that is to say, expel him and have his eyes wide open.
“It’s the ongoing theme, so to speak. He comes to the basket, being a scorer as well as a playmaker. They do a good job with their rotations. Sometimes they chase fouls instead of going to finish I’ve seen that in a few games so far.”
Moving forward, what the Celtics need to see is the Tatum who showed up time and time again in the big spots earlier in this playoffs, such as his 46-point effort at Milwaukee in the Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals to avoid elimination against Giannis. Antetokounmpo and defending champion Bucks.
A similar performance in Game 5 in San Francisco on Monday night could see Boston close out this streak in Boston next Thursday in Game 6.
Tatum said he remains confident he and the Celtics can bounce back.
“We’re not doing this on purpose,” Tatum said. “I promise you not. We’re trying our best. There are some things we need to clean up. Obviously turnovers, attacking moves. Would we have liked to win today and be up 3-1? That would have was the best case scenario.
“But it’s the finals. The art of competition, they came here feeling like they had to win. It wasn’t easy. I think that’s kind of the beauty of it, that it It’s not going to be easy. It shouldn’t be.
“We know we both want it, and we have to go get it.”