What Jayson Tatum said of recent criticisms following Celtics’ Game 3 win


“Maybe I feel like they’re not watching everything else that I’m doing. That’s not my job to focus on that, right?”

Jayson Tatum scored a team-high 33 points in the Celtics’ Game 3 win. (Danielle Parhizkaran/Globe Staff)

Jayson Tatum’s play this postseason has largely been criticized, but he answered some of those doubts on Saturday.

The Celtics’ star scored 33 points, tied for the game-high, with 13 rebounds and six assists in Game 3 to lead Boston to a 106-93 win and regain control of the series.

Saturday’s performance followed a pair of relatively quiet outings in the first two games of the series for Tatum, scoring just 43 points through Game 2. In fact, he was averaging just 21.7 points per game so far in the playoffs before Saturday, leading many to criticize his play in recent days.

While Tatum’s scoring had been lackluster for his standards, the criticisms of him had been wide-ranging. There were questions about his shooting, scoring, aggressiveness, and leadership coming into focus.

Well, Tatum certainly checked off a couple of those boxes on Saturday. He was aggressive from the start, scoring 12 points as he put up nine shots in the first quarter to help the Celtics keep up with Donovan Mitchell and the Cavaliers. He maintained that aggressiveness throughout Saturday’s game, putting up seven shots at the rim and 11 shots in the paint as he had a team-high 25 field-goal attempts.

Tatum’s performance might have suggested that he had a point to prove to those who had been criticizing him in recent days. However, he seemed to suggest that wasn’t the case, saying he’s just focused on ways he can impact the game, but he has “respect” for the media.

“I don’t always agree with the things that they say,” Tatum told reporters. “When they’re fair and take emotion out of it, whatever way that they’re leaning toward when they’re fair, I respect it. I understand what the media has brought to our game. More eyes, more attention, and how everybody has benefited from that.

“I wouldn’t say that I take it as disrespect, right? Like I said, I don’t always agree with what they say. Maybe I feel like they’re not watching everything else that I’m doing. That’s not my job to focus on that, right?”

Even though Tatum was arguably the most impactful player in Game 3, his performance wasn’t perfect. He still struggled to make jump shots efficiently, making just 4 of 14 shots from outside the paint and shooting just 2 of 8 from deep. Tatum shot just 26.5 percent from deep this postseason, failing to make more than two 3-pointers in a game.

Tatum recognized that his shot isn’t falling the way he’d like it to. However, he believes he’s found other ways to impact the game and hopes his shot will start to eventually fall as a result.

“My job is to be the best player that I can be for our team on any given night,” Tatum said. “Yeah, I would love to make every shot I take. I know I can shoot better, and I will. At this time of the season, as long as we win and we’re trending in the right direction, I know my scoring will come. I’ve done that plenty of times.

“I just try to impact the game in other ways and just dominate. Dominate the game and not just be defined as a scorer.”

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