Duke in the NBA: Tatum leads Celtics in Eastern Conference finals

Jayson Tatum scored 27 and 29 points in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals
Jayson Tatum scored 27 and 29 points in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals

The NBA playoffs are heating up, and just one former Blue Devil remains. The Blue Zone takes a look at his path to the finals, as well as impending free agency:

Jayson Tatum and Celtics down 2-1 to Heat

In Tuesday’s opening game of the Eastern Conference finals, the No. 2-seed Boston Celtics lost 118-107 to the No. 1-seed Miami Heat despite former Blue Devil Jayson Tatum’s 29 points for Boston. Though Derrick White was missing from the Game 2 lineup, Marcus Smart and Al Horford returned and Tatum scored a team-high 27 points to lead the Celtics to a dominant 127-102 romp to even up the series 1-1. Teammates Smart and Jaylen Brown each scored 24 points to contribute to the win as Boston bounced back from its shorthanded loss in Game 1.

Tatum had a well-rounded performance in the victory with five assists, five rebounds and a steal, and was remarkably efficient, shooting 7-of-7 from the free-throw line, 4-of-6 for 3-pointers and 61.5% from the field. The St. Louis native has continued to play at a high level throughout the season and playoffs, emerging as a star for the Celtics, a storied franchise hoping to return to the finals for the first time in over a decade. 

In Game 3, the star had a slower night, scoring 10 points with six rebounds and four assists in a 109-103 loss. The Celtics ended the first quarter down 39-18 but cut Miami’s lead to 15 after a Tatum trey with just 1.4 seconds left in the second quarter. With 5:18 left in the fourth quarter, he exited for the locker room with a shoulder injury. Luckily for Boston fans, he returned to the team bench and reentered the game with 3:40 left on the clock. The Celtics were able to cut the Heat lead to one point, but Miami held on and barely avoided a Boston comeback. The series will remain in Boston for Game 4 Monday night. 

Free agency approaching for former Blue Devils

Austin Rivers and Tyus Jones are set to become free agents at the end of the season and the front offices of teams across the league will be interested in acquiring them. After a great season with the Memphis Grizzlies and impressive playoff performance, especially in the absence of star point guard Ja Morant after he went down with a knee injury, Jones stepped up to the pressure of the postseason, proved his value, and increased his free agency stock. This summer, the Burnsville, Minn., native should have plenty of signing options and the possibility for a more lucrative contract. 


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