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Celtics’ Al Horford gets real on Jayson Tatum’s potential as a facilitator

Boston Celtics, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum did not have his best scoring outing in Game 1 of the NBA Finals series against the Golden State Warriors, but it did not stop him from exerting a keen impact in the contest.

Tatum tallied a playoff career-high 13 assists in the 120-108 victory over the Warriors, which set the record for the most assists notched by a player in their debut NBA Finals game. He shied away from playing hero ball in the fourth quarter, as he logged more assists (four) than shot attempts (three) in the final 12 minutes of the contest.

Al Horford has had a front-row seat to watch Tatum emerge as one of the premier scorers in the NBA today. As he touched on after Game 1 of the NBA Finals, he also sees much promise in Tatum’s potential as a facilitator.

“There were some flashes early on,” Horford said. “But he really — it’s such a challenge for guys like him, top players in the league that are expected to score, to playmake, to defend, all those things. And Jayson does all those things.

“His playmaking has gotten better steadily. Tonight it was just brilliant. Offensively he didn’t really get it going scoring-wise, but then he was finding guys. He was reading the defense. It just shows his growth. Even from earlier in the year, he just has continued to get better.”

Celtics guard Payton Pritchard has only played alongside Tatum for two seasons so far, but he has also seen growth in the three-time All-Star’s play in this area of his game.

“He’s an unbelievable playmaker,” Pritchard said. “I mean, obviously we know he can score at the highest of levels. But when you can score and pass like he is, I think you end up with like 13 assists. It’s a game changer.

“It makes teams play you completely different, which in the end if we do our job and hit the shots he’s kicking to us, it’s going to open up more for him.”

The attention for the Celtics has shifted to Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, where Tatum sure will look to bounce back from his 3-17 shooting performance in the series opener.