Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka trusts in Jayson Tatum to stay aggressive while facilitating the team, heading into Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday.
The Warriors have largely been able to restrict Tatum's scoring output on the way to taking a 3-2 series lead, with the Celtics now needing a win on home court on Thursday to save their season.
Tatum has averaged 23.2 points per game on 37.3 per cent shooting from the floor in this series, compared to the 27.8 points on 44.1 per cent in the preceding three series, despite an improvement to 47.5 per cent from beyond the arc against the Warriors.
More pertinently, however, his ability to feed teammates has diminished after setting a new career-high with 13 assists in Game 1.
Speaking to the media ahead of Game 6, Udoka believes the Eastern Conference Finals MVP and three-time All-Star can find the necessary balance to keep the series alive.
"From a scoring standpoint at times this whole series, not only in the fourth quarter, he's missed some things that he usually makes," Udoka said. "But we do want him to be aggressive and find that balance, as he's done all year.
"With Golden State specifically, they are trying to take him out of actions at certain times in the game, but it's on him to read that in positions where, understanding he's going to be doubled and be the bait at times and get everybody else involved.
"We have to make them pay as far as that. So, I wouldn't say his fourth is not as good or as bad as some of the other quarters. We want him to be aggressive and make the right read, which he's done all year."
using every opportunity to improve pic.twitter.com/OtMstltqbx— Boston Celtics (@celtics) June 15, 2022
On the other end, Boston's defensive approach on Stephen Curry changed in Game 5, but it freed up space for Klay Thompson.
The Celtics were much more aggressive guarding Curry coming out of the pick-and-roll in Game 5, but averaging 17.3 points on 35.8 per cent shooting in the opening four games, Thompson scored 21 points on an even 50 per cent. Thompson also shot five-of-11 from three, making up for Curry and Andrew Wiggins combining to shoot zero-of-15 from distance.
For Udoka, that is also a matter of balance.
"We don't feel we're as good as we had been in the first few games in other areas," he said. "Obviously, Curry got a ton of the credit for the shots he was making early, but our physicality and some of our adjustments we made on him were better.
"But we don't want to lose sight of everything else we've done well which is off-ball actions, whether he slips to the basket or Thompson, you saw our first two or three possessions, we had slips for layups to the basket.
"It was something we had taken care of well throughout the series as well as getting to Thompson. I think we lost the rope a little bit there."