Saturday, June 25, 2022

Celtics’ Ime Udoka provides update on Jayson Tatum’s injury

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While there was plenty to celebrate for the Boston Celtics in the first three games of the NBA Finals, where the Celtics lead 2-1 in Game 4, a lingering concern was the shooting of Jayson Tatum, who started the series with a 3-for-17 result that would weigh on any field goal percentage but only came back 17-for-42 (40.4%) in the next two games.

Celtics coach Ime Udoka said the struggles Tatum had at shooting, particularly when he ended up near the rim, may or may not be shoulder related, but the stinger is an issue.

“Jayson, I think it’s a spike that flares up when hit the wrong way,” Udoka said Thursday. “I’m not sure if it has any bearing on him finishing. He still shoots the ball from 3. Only the first hit you saw him on – had to shoot some free throws after that, might be a little numb there. He shoots 3 seconds right after that so I’m not sure if that prevents him from even finishing.”

According to doctors at Sports Injury Central, Tatum shoulder stitches are becoming more common: “It’s something that won’t go away. … The real concern is the recurring Tatum shoulder issue.”

However, Tatum struggles to take shots inside. In a minor anomaly, Tatum shoots 43.5% from the 3-point line but only 45.5% from the restricted area, according to NBA.com/stats. Tatum has shot 68.0% in restricted range this season, and it has been speculated that the recurring shoulder injury is to blame for his inability to finish.

Tatum has struggled to make contact as it appears to be aggravating the shoulder. He was less willing to attack the rim, his number of attempts in the restricted zone dropping to 3.7 here in the final. During the regular season, he attempted 5.6 shots per game on the rim.

There’s a lot to like about Tatum’s ground play, even in the fringe fights. He still manages to score (28 points in Game 2 and 26 in Game 3) despite additional attention from the Warriors defense. And as a passer, he excelled, averaging 8.3 assists per game. He’s also tamed his turnover woes, committing just eight in the three games in the series.

One thing to watch out for might be that Warriors Provocateur Draymond Green is paying special attention to Tatum’s right shoulder, possibly hoping to set off the sting. That became a Twitter issue in Game 3, especially during that free throw rebound attempt where Green appears to be aiming for the injured shoulder.

Green goes hard on Tatum’s inside from what was a routine free throw. Note the relative nonchalance between Robert Williams and Jordan Poole on the opposite side of the lane.

Tatum first suffered the shoulder injury during the conference semifinals against Milwaukee, but the injury worsened in the fourth quarter of Game 3 of the conference finals against Miami almost three weeks ago.

At the time, Tatum explained, “My neck got caught in a weird position,” Tatum said. “Of course I went under. I felt pain and discomfort in my neck and down my arm. Went and had it checked out. I started to get the feeling again, had the doctors check it out and decided to give it a try.”

Since that game he has averaged 25.0 points on 41.4% shooting.

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