Orlando Magic rookie sensation Paolo Banchero got a taste of what it was like to go up against a championship contender when his team faced off against the Boston Celtics on Saturday. The No. 1 pick of the 2022 draft finished with 23 points but had to work hard for his points as Celtics star Jayson Tatum helped keep him in check.
Apparently, Tatum demanded to cover Banchero on defense as the first half drew to a close. At the time, the Magic had their way on offense, and the three-time All-Star explained why he chose to do so.
"That's how you show respect," Tatum said. "I'm not going to let it be easy. I'm going to compete. You've gotta go at somebody regardless of if he's 19 or 30. Nobody took it easy on me my first year."
Becoming a two-way player?
The Celtics leader's work on offense and defense against the Magic on Saturday night helped propel the Celtics to a 126-120 victory. As he said, he did not take it easy on his fellow Duke University product.
Through five years in the Association, Tatum has become known more for his offensive talents. He can score from anywhere on the court and distribute the ball. However, the 6-foot-8 forward also has the physical tools to be adept on the defensive end of the court.
Top of the East
Last season, Boston ended on the top of the Eastern Conference and went to the NBA Finals, where it lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games.
Early in this campaign, the Celtics are proving they are still the team to beat in the East. They currently sport a conference-best 3-0 record, thanks partly to Tatum's string of strong performances. Currently, Tatum is averaging 34.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per contest.