Tatum shakes off a rocky start — and a shoulder problem — for a strong Game 5

BOSTON — Jayson Tatum got off to a horrible start in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat, and for a while, it looked like the Celtics star might be dealing with a shoulder injury.

It’s the playoffs, so no one is completely healthy. But Tatum clearly had a sore right shoulder early in Game 5.

He grabbed the shoulder early in the game after being hit by Kyle Lowry, the same shoulder he suffered a stinger on late in Game 3. He grabbed it again after he was called for an offensive foul on a shot at rim late in the game. . he second quarter and was slow to get up from the court after running into a sea of ​​Heat players.

Tatum hit just one shot in the first half of Game 5, going 1-for-9 from the floor for four points. He threw most of his misses and looked like he was grabbing his shoulder or flexing his hand and fingers after most possessions.

But coming out of halftime, Tatum looked like a different player. He finished the game with 22 points on 7-of-20 shooting and flirted with a triple-double with 12 rebounds and nine assists.

He admitted the shoulder was bothering him in the first half, but he put it out of his mind and focused on playing better basketball in the second half. Boston completely flipped the script with a dominant second half, as Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 37 points at halftime.

The win has Boston one win away from the NBA Finals. The Celtics can finish with a win Friday night at TD Garden, but Tatum says they have a lot of work to do if they want to finish off the Heat.

“This is far from over. We just got to Milwaukee and won a big Game 6, so we know it’s possible,” Tatum said. “We came in tonight with the mentality that it was a game we had to win and we have to continue with that; go into Friday as if we were down 3-2.

“This is a great team that is well managed and it’s not going to be easy,” he added. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s going to be fun.”

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