Boston’s Jayson Tatum struggled with his shot in Monday’s win over Cleveland, but continues to help the team in other ways. As for the shooting? “I’ll continue to keep working. It’s going to come,” he said. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Jayson Tatum admitted – after a 35% shooting performance Monday – he hasn’t quite struggled this much from the floor during his career. The shotmaking just hasn’t been efficient, and it’s contributed to Boston’s slow start to the season.

While Tatum’s only 23, he’s already in his fifth season in the league. He’s a bonafide NBA veteran, which is why the shooting woes have come as a surprise to Tatum, the Celtics and the rest of the league.

But he hasn’t let the slow start shake his confidence, he said. On the contrary, he said he tries to stay as even-keeled as possible amid the tough stretch.

“I haven’t doubted myself – not once,” Tatum said postgame Monday. “Neither have my teammates; neither have my opponents. They still guard me closely. They don’t leave me. They don’t help because they know what I’m capable of. But just gotta keep working at it, keep watching film, gotta keep shooting. I’ll figure it out.”

Tatum finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists Monday. The Celtics got some revenge as they beat the Cavs 98-92 in Cleveland. I

It’s Tatum’s entire statline that has been a relative positive despite the slump – he’s impacting the game in other ways. Tatum has skied for rebounds, and just as he pointed out, he still commands the opposition’s respect. That has been doubly important with Jaylen Brown out as teams focus more of their game plan on Tatum.

While the raw assists aren’t there, he does average 7.6 potential assists per game going into Monday’s contest (15th among forwards). Tatum has passed out of double teams well. Even when his shots are going in, he has aggressively attacked the bucket to draw contact. To Tatum’s credit, he was a 7 for 7 from the free-throw line Monday to boost the point total.

But as Tatum has confessed, he’s still not perfect. He’s jawed with referees to the point of earning technical fouls this season. His body language has slumped during those tough times. But it’s all about leading the team to victory, he said.

“You just miss shots sometimes,” Tatum said. “… I try to be the same person when I’m 7 for 30 as when I was scoring 50 and 60. I can’t change who I am or how I act. I don’t want anybody to feel bad for me; missing shots. I’ll continue to keep working. It’s going to come.”

ROBERT WILLIAMS III didn’t play the entire second half Monday against the Cavaliers because of left knee soreness. Boston Coach Ime Udoka said that Williams seemed to injure the knee sometime during the second quarter.

“Rob felt some soreness in the second quarter,” Udoka said postgame Monday. “Not sure if he did something specific to it, but it was pretty tight at halftime and felt a sharp pain, so we kept him out. We’ll see when he gets tested and looked at, how fine he’ll be.”

Williams finished Monday’s game with zero points and six rebounds in 13 minutes. He’s getting his first lick at consistent playing time this season: He came into Monday’s game averaging career-highs with 32.3 minutes, 10.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.

Any extended time without Williams will change things for the Celtics considerably. Williams has been a major cog of the team’s defense this season and has been a force inside. His offensive rebounding skills have also led to second-chance opportunities.

It’ll be tricky for Udoka to balance minutes if Williams is forced to miss significant time. Al Horford has been a steady rock for the Celtics, but at 35, keeping his minutes in check is always a priority. Horford has also been dinged up with some injuries this season as he’s missed the odd game occasionally.

That means the center depth behind Williams becomes important. That’s where Udoka can get creative to fill the Williams-sized void. Udoka likely turns to Grant Williams, Enes Kanter and Bruno Fernando to play those center minutes in that scenario.

LEBRON TO RETURN AGAINST CELTS? The Los Angeles Lakers may be getting a major boost in their only visit to the TD Garden this regular season on Friday night. All-Star forward LeBron James could make his return in the matchup, according to ESPN, as he continues to make good progress in his recovery from an abdominal strain.

The Lakers have struggled mightily without the 36-year-old wing in recent weeks, with a 5-4 record since James suffered the injury despite the fact they have played eight of those games at the Staples Center. Carmelo Anthony has been starting in place of James at power forward over the past week so it is unlikely he would be headed back to the bench against Boston if James returns.

JAYLEN BROWN will be approaching the end of his 1-2 week recovery timetable for a strained hamstring on Friday night as well. If he is not cleared to play for Boston’s matchup against the Atlanta Hawks in Brown’s home state of Georgia on Wednesday night, the odds are good that he will be back on the floor against the Lakers on Friday as Boston opens up a four-game homestead.

“He went through some treatment and some on-court stuff yesterday and was not ready to play and no further status as far as that,” Udoka said on Monday on Brown’s recovery. “He’ll continue to work and try to progress toward a week or two.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.