Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Jayson Tatum on Celtics' focus ahead of playoffs: 'Our mindset is where it needs to be'

The Celtics sit atop of the Eastern Conference and the league for that matter with a 57-15 record and a 11-game lead over the second seeded Milwaukee Bucks.

Over the last two years, Boston has been somewhat close to capturing that coveted 18th championship banner, but came up short in the 2022 NBA Finals and then again in the 2023 East Finals respectively.

However, much like the Celtics' "Different Here" social media slogan for the 2023-24 campaign, it does feel like this season has had that "different" vibe to it then in recent years when it relates to being title contenders.

To start off, this Celtics' roster is actually much different than it was a year ago, especially when you subtract fan favorites Marcus Smart, Robert Williams III and the reigning Sixth Man of the Year in Malcolm Brogdon and instead plug in veteran big man Kristaps Porzingis and a champion point guard like Jrue Holiday.

While superstars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have now become the longest tenured on this current roster, the same two pillars that were chosen over the past seven to eight years to build around, it may seem like the time is now to see the results of all the changes made -- especially since Brad Stevens promoted himself to president of basketball operations following the first-round playoff exit to conclude the 2020-21 season.

So what makes the 2023-24 Celtics so "different here" this time around? Tatum, who was fresh off the heels of his team blowing a 30-point lead to the Atlanta Hawks and getting a their nine-game win streak snapped Monday, was on TNT's Postgame Show last night.

The Celtics All-Star was asked what will keep the team's focus on finally getting that monkey off their back and winning it all -- which seems like that's the only thing missing from Tatum's resume, that includes four trips to the Eastern Conference Finals and one NBA Finals berth.
"Experience is the best teacher, right? The last few years being that close and not getting over the hump obviously was extremely tough," Tatum said to Shaquille O'Neal on NBA on TNT Tuesday night. "And I think everybody on our team is in a perfect place in their career. We've all accomplished individual things, everybody's gotten paid, and the last thing for most of us -- except for Jrue Holiday -- is we all trying to get over that hump.
 "And I think we have the right group, the right mindset to do those things. Obviously, we still have to do it, stay healthy and continue to play the right way. But our mindset is where it needs to be."
Tatum dropped a game-high 38 points against the Hawks despite the loss, as Boston had won 20 of their last 22 going into State Farm Arena. Still, there have been some concerns when it comes to the C's late-game execution when the contest is close or if they have blown a double-digit lead -- such was the case in their last three defeats against the likes of the champion Denver Nuggets on the road, the Cleveland Cavaliers and now Atlanta prior to their nine-game stretch of being undefeated.

However, with the Celtics being 32-3 at home, 25-12 on the road and with a point differential of plus 11.5 -- all a league-best -- Tatum and the rest of the roster will have lots of pressure to carry their many achievements into the postseason. For now, Boston is the only team that has clinched a playoff spot and officially the No. 1 seed in the East with 10 games to go.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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