It’s no secret that the Golden State Warriors have Jayson Tatum’s number when they play one another.
That held true in the 2022 NBA Finals and held true Saturday night as Golden State defeated the Boston Celtics 123-107. Tatum finished with 18 points, 7 rebounds in 40 minutes of play.
There’s no need to rerun what happened last year in the NBA Finals between the two teams, to put it shortly, Tatum was guarded by Andrew Wiggins and struggled. However, Wiggins was out Saturday night and Tatum still struggled to find his shot, something that’s been rare so far this season as he’s a candidate for MVP.
‘So why was he struggling?’ you may ask.
Help in the paint
Tatum was 6 for 21 from the field, he was hesitant every time going to the bucket. The reason being is because the Warriors rotated on every drive Tatum made to the basket. It’s simple basketball: when your shot isn’t going, go to the rack and get to the foul line. But the Warriors didn’t let Tatum get a single easy basket inside the paint.
It’s no secret Draymond Green plays physical. The guy kicks, scratches, boxes out, dives for loose balls, uses all his fouls and everything else you want from a defender. Tatum knows that. The physicality the Warriors put on him in the paint had Tatum rethinking every drive to the basket, forcing him to kick it out almost every time.
Warriors run… run… run…
The Warriors offense is full of screens, passing, and fast ball movement. That type of offense tires out defenders who have to chase the top two shooters on planet earth (Klay and Steph). Throw in Jordan Poole, and every shot on the perimeter needs to be contested. Every screen needs to be fought through. Every shot needs to be boxed out. That is a tiring possession for the average player.
By the time Tatum gets back on offense he’s tired. That doesn’t mean he’s completely gassed, he’s an NBA player for crying out loud. However, Tatum didn’t have the same lift on his shots. Look at the Celtics deep ball shots in the second half, a lot fell short or were completely off the mark. That comes from pure fatigue. The same actually goes for Golden State. But they cut to the basket so well that they know how to score in times of poor shooting (yes, they do have bad shooting nights).
They’re focused on Tatum specifically
It’s irritating to hear people praise Jaylen Brown for his play against the Warriors when in reality, the Warriors defense is set up that way. Steve Kerr wants to stop the best player on the opposite team and let the other guys shine. Stick Klay on Brown all night. Sure, Brown is going to win some possessions, but it’s a hell of a lot better than to get the guy who’s averaging 30 points a night going.
In that case, the game plan for the Warriors is to send help defense anytime Tatum gets the ball and decides to drive. They all are aware where Tatum is on the court at all times. They push up on Tatum and force him off the 3-point line or force him to take an off-balance shot. When it comes to two great teams, it’s always a matter of picking your poison.
Now whether Tatum can adjust to the Warriors defense we have yet to see.