BOSTON — Jayson Tatum’s first playoff game followed the pattern of his first NBA season. The 6-foot-8 rookie started off fast, slumped in the middle and then recovered nicely.
Tatum made his first four shots and missed his next seven before sinking four of his final seven attempts. He finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block as the Celtics defeated the Bucks, 113-107, in overtime at the Garden Sunday to take Game 1 in the best-of-seven, opening-round Eastern Conference playoff series.
The Celtics will host the Bucks in Game 2 at 8 p.m. Tuesday night at the Garden.
Early in the regular season, Tatum led the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage at more than 50 percent, but after a couple of months he struggled not only with his long-range shooting, but his ability to drive to the basket. Then he regained his form, especially after the team needed more from him following injuries to leading scorer Kyrie Irving and others. No longer deferring to Irving, Tatum became more assertive.
On Sunday, Tatum scored eight of the Celtics’ first 16 points and helped them take a 29-17 lead into the second quarter.
“I wasn’t nervous,” Tatum said. “I was excited, but I wasn’t nervous at all. It was a lot of fun. I’ve always dreamed of this moment, playing in my first playoff game. It helped we were at home and we had our home crowd behind us and we got the first win.”
In the second quarter, Tatum missed all four of his shot attempts, but his teammates didn’t fare much better. The Celtics shot only 4-of-20 and were outscored, 30-15, to fall behind, 47-44.
“We never feel like the game is out of reach,” Tatum said, “especially the way we’ve competed all year and the games that we’ve had great comebacks in. We always know that it goes down to the wire with us. We could have played better in the first half and we were only down three.”
Tatum ended his 0-7 stretch by sinking a 3-pointer late in the third to help the Celtics take a 70-66 lead into the fourth. Then in the fourth, he scored his team’s first two baskets and in OT he drove for another hoop. Tatum also grabbed a team-high three rebounds and blocked a shot in the five-minute extra session.
Tatum’s 19 points tied Tommy Heinsohn for third most by a Celtics rookie in his playoff debut. Frank Ramsey had 25 on March 15, 1955, Kevin McHale had 21 on April 5, 1981, and Heinsohn had 19 on March 21, 1957.
Tatum also became only the third Celtics rookie to record a double-double in his playoff debut, joining Heinsohn and Bill Russell, both of whom did so on March 21, 1957 vs. Syracuse. That’s some pretty impressive company.
“Very impressed,” said Al Horford, who had 24 points and 12 rebounds in Game 1. “He was very composed. He made some mistakes, but he did a lot more good than bad. He was just very poised, making the right plays, great defensive plays, big rebounds. I was impressed by the way he was getting in there and getting some tough rebounds. It just shows the kind of player that he is not only on offensive but he was impacting on the defensive end, too.”
Marcus Morris is no longer surprised by anything Tatum does.
“Not at all,” said Morris, who scored 21 points in Game 1. “I’ve been getting questions about him all year, but I expect him to do well. He’s a guy I’m around him every day. We just call him 'rook.' That’s the only thing rookie about him."
Not everything went well for Tatum, who turned the ball over a team-high five times, including three times in OT, twice when the Bucks intercepted his passes.
“Those guys are very long and active on the defensive end,” Tatum said. “We’ll figure out what we need to do better (Monday).”
Tatum, 24-year-old Terry Rozier (23 points) and 21-year-old Jaylen Brown (20 points) all excelled in their first playoff starts.
“We’ve had significant experience throughout the season,” Tatum said, “due to injuries and how we’ve been in tough games. So I thought that really helped us out (Sunday).”
When Khris Middleton sank a 36-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime, the young Celtics followed the lead of coach Brad Stevens, who remains calm under pressure.
“Brad does a great job,” Tatum said, “as well as our coaching staff and everybody. We could have easily just been deflated at the end of regulation, but we all stood together and we came back out there and we executed and played really well in overtime.”