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


Jayson Tatum of the Celtics

There is a lot going on with Celtics forward Jayson Tatum here in the NBA Finals. He is playing through a shoulder stinger that is clearly bothering him and affecting his ability to finish at the rim. He’s also playing the deepest he’s ever been in the NBA postseason, and is showing the effects of fatigue down the stretch of games.

In fact, no one has played more minutes in these playoffs than Tatum, who has posted 943 minutes thus far. Jaylen Brown is second on the list, at 876 minutes. Al Horford is third, with 776. It is not until you get to No. 4 that a non-Celtic pops up, with Klay Thompson of the Warriors logging 751 minutes in the playoffs.

But there may be a lesson to be learned here for Tatum. “If you want to win the Finals, you have to have elite conditioning,” one Eastern Conference coach told Heavy.com. “A lot of times you don’t really understand that until you get there. You see it happen with guys where being in the Finals shows you what you need to do to get to that next level, and I think that is where Tatum is now—he is just seeing that he needs to put in that extra bit to be elite.

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

Tatum Has Faded in the 4th Quarter in the Finals

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

Heavy.com insider Steve Bulpett, who covered the Celtics since 1986, said that he thinks there is more going on with Tatum than just his body.

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

Udoka Granted Game 5 Fatigue Factor

Celtics coach Ime Udoka was asked about fatigue after Game 5, when the Celtics unraveled in the fourth quarter and were outscored 29-20 after a big third-quarter rally. He had played Tatum (and Jaylen Brown) 44 minutes in the game, and all of the second half. 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.

“We ran them obviously a longer stretch to get back in the game in the third,” Udoka said. “Looked like our decision-making wanted a little bit in the fourth. Could have been from that. Weren’t getting a whole lot of production off the bench. Went with them a little bit longer, being they got us back in, and tried to use the timeouts for their rest.

“Got away from a little bit what got us back in the game in the third. Decision making and fatigue could be a part of it, the reason why.”


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