Jayson Tatum proved why he's a real superstar in Celtics' Game 1 win over Warriors

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This trend in Jayson Tatum's game proves why he's a real superstar originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Jayson Tatum had his worst shooting night of the playoffs Thursday night, hitting just 3 of 17 shots (17.6 percent) to finish with 12 points.

That's a tough look for your superstar in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. But the Boston Celtics found a way to defeat the Golden State Warriors 120-108 -- because Tatum found another way to be a superstar.

Tatum racked up a career-high 13 assists, an NBA record for a player making his Finals debut and the second-most ever in an NBA Finals Game 1, trailing only Magic Johnson. On a night when his shot wasn't falling, Tatum routinely set up his teammates for open looks, aiding Derrick White's big night by assisting on two of White's postseason-high five 3-pointers.

On the game's biggest stage, Tatum proved to a national audience that he can impact winning without scoring in bunches. But this was something the Celtics already knew.

Dating to the beginning of the 2019-20 season, Boston is now 5-2 in games where Tatum shoots under 20 percent from the floor. Remarkably, the C's have won three such games in a row -- with Tatum dropping 29 dimes over those three contests.

Jayson Tatum's playmaking has helped the Celtics win five of their last seven games in which he's shot below 20 percent from the floor.

"His playmaking has gotten better steadily. Tonight it was just brilliant," said Al Horford, who scored eight of his 26 points off Tatum passes. "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."

Tatum averaged less than four assists per game through the first three months of the regular season, even getting called out by teammate Marcus Smart for not sharing the ball enough. The 24-year-old improved greatly as a facilitator down the stretch, however, and has taken his passing to another level in the postseason: His 6.3 assists per game lead the Celtics, ahead of Smart at 6.1.

"I've talked to him at length about impacting the game when he's not having his best offensive night. So he did that tonight," head coach Ime Udoka said after the game.

"... I love his growth and progression in those areas, where he's still guarding on the defensive end, still getting others involved, not pouting about his shots, and trying to play through some mistakes and physicality they were playing with him."

Make no mistake: The Celtics need Tatum to be an elite scorer. They can't rely on Horford and White to put up 20-plus points per night, and Tatum has to find his groove offensively if Boston wants to outlast Golden State over a seven-game series.

The game's best players can beat you in a number of different ways, however -- and don't get discouraged when one part of their game is off.

That's exactly what Tatum did Thursday night at Chase Center, and it's a big reason why Boston stole Game 1 on the road.