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#pounditTuesday, July 23, 2024

Celtics could pull unexpected Jayson Tatum move in conference finals?

Jayson Tatum smiling

May 7, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) smiles before game one of the second round of the 2024 NBA playoffs against the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

After almost blowing Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on their home floor, the Boston Celtics may be looking to innovate.

Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla revealed to reporters on Wednesday that it is possible that star forward Jayson Tatum could play at the 5 in certain lineups moving forward in their series against the Indiana Pacers.

“Anything is on the table against a team like this because of their versatility,” said Mazzulla of the Pacers, per Jay King of The Athletic.

The revelation from Mazzulla comes after the Celtics were nearly stunned by the Pacers in Game 1 on Tuesday before the Pacers ultimately managed to out-choke them. With Kristaps Porzingis still sidelined with an injury, 37-year-old Al Horford had a very hard time keeping up with the run-and-gun Pacers, both in transition and on the perimeter. Equally-plodding backup center Luke Kornet also didn’t have the foot speed to hold up defensively.

With Tatum playing as a de facto center (something that has only done two percent of the time in his entire career, per Basketball Reference), Boston could play five-out on offense and also blow up the Pacers’ pick-and-rolls on the other end. Of course, much more would be required of Tatum, namely, boxing out and securing defensive rebounds, stepping out to contest shots by Indiana’s floor-spacing big men Myles Turner and Pascal Siakam, and surviving off switches against guards like Tyrese Haliburton up top. But Tatum is long at 6-foot-8 and rebounds the ball well (8.1 per game this season), so he should be able to do so.

The Celtics might not necessarily turn to Tatum as a 5 man for more than a few minutes at a time. But it is a very useful option to have in their toolbox, especially since previous opponents have already exposed some of Boston’s weaknesses with their current lineups.

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