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NBA

Celtics Jayson Tatum named NBA Eastern Conference MVP

Boston’s small forward has reinvented himself as not just a high scoring show stopper, but a defensive stalwart. The question now is can he show that to the Golden State Warriors?

Paul Rudder
Update:
Celtics Jayson Tatum named NBA Eastern Conference MVP
Jim RassolUSA TODAY Sports

The Celtics are on their way to the NBA Finals not only because they showed they’re worth it in a dramatic Game 7 win, but because their star put in an MVP performance across the series.

Celtics Jayson Tatum named Eastern Conference Finals MVP

If it wasn’t already clear, Boston Celtics star guard Jayson Tatum was officially named the Eastern Conference Finals MVP. With that Tatum received the first-ever Larry Bird Eastern Conference Finals MVP award for his part in what was the all important victory in their series with the Miami Heat. As a result, the Celtics will now be returning to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010. Tatum, who averaged 25 points, 5.6 assists and 8.3 rebounds across the series was also an integral part of the Celtics’ defensive setup. Indeed one could even argue that it was his defensive performance that was perhaps the defining factor more so than his offensive production.

The Celtics and Jayson Tatum have come a long way

It was just one year ago that the Celtics exited the NBA playoffs in the very first round. It was a result many saw as inevitable after they barely made it to the post season following a disappointing season in which they started out with an abysmal 23-24 record. Add to that the public spat that unfolded between first year coach Ime Udoka and his players as Udoka publicly criticized them and it was a situation that many felt could not end well. Yet here we are a season later, the Celtics are arguably the best defensive team in the league, with their very own Marcus Smart being named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year as if to punctuate the point and they are en route to the NBA Finals. Quite a turnaround when considering recent history.

To be fair, the signs were there. After that awful start to the season the Celtics went on to post a record of 28-7, eventually finishing with the best net rating in the NBA as well as the league’s No. 1 defense. Tatum it must be said was quite frankly the architect of that resurgence. Though many will of course speak of the numbers that he’s put on the board offensively, the 24 year old has ‘upped the ante’ when it comes to his play making capacity while simultaneously establishing himself as one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. His selection to the All-NBA First team is testament to the fact.

Jayson Tatum vs the Heat was confirmation of the obvious

To be clear, we could spend a great deal of time discussing the way in which Tatum took things to another level against the Miami Heat, but it would be a simplification of the forward’s performance across the playoffs as a whole. As early as the first round when the Celtics met the Brooklyn Nets, the signs were there. Tatum was key in limiting the effect of former league MVP Kevin Durant. Then of course there was Boston’s clash with the Milwaukee Bucks and their own former MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Tatum was again a critical part of the reason why the Celtics got past the defending champions, with his 46-point showing in Game 6 putting an official stamp of authority on the series This of course brings us to the present where the Celtics will now prepare to take on Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. After a 26-point Game 7 performance, the rising star will play in his first NBA Finals having fallen short at the last hurdle on two previous occasions, leaving the obvious question, ‘Can Jayson Tatum lead his team to a championship?’

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