After the Boston Celtics defeated the Toronto Raptors 102-99 to take a 2-0 lead in the series, Brad Stevens was asked a two-part question: What did he think of Jayson Tatum’s technical in the fourth quarter, and what did he think of Tatum’s defense down the stretch?
Stevens answered the second question first.
“Tremendous defense by Tatum on the last play,” Stevens said. “Because it’s so easy when you’re going in transition to back up inside that 3 and give a 3. But for him to stop outside the 3 and use his length and not foul but certainly impacted the shot.
“Really tremendous and made up for his technical.”
The latter part came across as a dry joke, but Stevens may not have been kidding. Tatum’s defense was excellent, and his technical was nearly very costly. The Celtics led by four with just over a minute remaining when Tatum went into a move against OG Anunoby. Anunoby stumbled backward, and replays showed Tatum did indeed push off against the third-year wing.
Tatum walked away from the play with a smile, but as he did so, he waved his arm dismissively at the referee — a motion that, by the letter of the law, is supposed to be called a technical. Sure enough, referee Sean Corbin whistled Tatum for one, and despite Tatum’s protests, the Raptors got a free throw (which Kyle Lowry made) and the ball.
Tatum, who is somewhat prone to those types of technicals, didn’t contest the call when he was asked about it postgame.
“We talked about it,” Tatum said. “They made the right call. It’s the playoffs. Guys playing hard, playing with a lot of emotion. Sometimes it’s hard to control that and they gave me the tech. It was the right call, and you’ve got to move on.”
Given everything else Tatum did, moving on will likely be pretty easy for Stevens and the Celtics. Tatum finished with 34 points on 17 shots, forcing his way to the free throw line 14 times (he made all 14). Late in the fourth quarter, his offense helped bury Toronto as the Raptors tried to rally back from Marcus Smart’s 3-point barrage.
“I thought he was different tonight than even in Game 1,” Stevens said. “I thought he attacked quicker. When he caught the ball he went right to what he was trying to get to. That was a big part of him being able to score the ball tonight. Obviously he makes tough shots. But at the end of the day, he’s a guy we know can get to his spots — know he can get his shots. The way defenses are guarding him, they’re getting up under him, so he’s gonna have to make those moves quick, and I thought he adjusted that well tonight.”
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