The evolution of Jayson Tatum continues, and that's good news for his Boston Celtics.
Tatum, the third overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, has increased his scoring average in each of his three seasons: from 13.9 to 15.7 to 23.4.
But his assists numbers have also gone up -- from 1.6 to 2.1 to 3.0 -- and that is something for the Miami Heat (42-25) to watch when the teams play on Tuesday night near Orlando.
On Sunday, Tatum scored 34 points and added a career-high eight assists as he led Boston (44-22) to a 128-124 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
"It's just about making the right reads," Tatum said of his improved playmaking skills. "(It's about) seeing double teams and making the right play."
Tatum, a 6-foot-8 forward, has taken on more responsibilities of late because point guard Kemba Walker is on a minutes-restriction as he fights his way back from a knee injury.
Walker had 14 points, two assists and two turnovers in 22 minutes against Portland, and he will likely get about the same amount of playing time versus Miami.
The good news for Boston is that Walker's shooting stroke has not suffered. He made 5-of-6 shots on Sunday, including 2-of-2 on 3-pointers, and he moved well overall.
Boston also got 30 points on Sunday from Jaylen Brown (6-of-8 on 3-pointers) and 22 from Gordon Hayward (4-of-5 on 3-pointers, six points in final two minutes).
The Celtics' bench is led by guard Marcus Smart, who is one of the best defenders in the league and also averages 13.5 points per game. Center Enes Kanter averages 8.1 points and 7.6 rebounds.
Miami, which is coming off Monday afternoon's 107-103 loss to the Toronto Raptors, will be playing on short rest. The Heat are 5-6 this season with no-days rest and 37-19 with at least one full day to recover.
Here's another interesting Miami trend: The Heat started this season 24-9 through the end of December. But since the calendar flipped to 2020, Miami is just 18-16.
The Heat lost Monday's game on the 3-point line, shooting just 31.1 percent (14 of 45) while allowing Toronto to connect on 50 percent (16 of 32).
And because the Heat focused so much of their offense from the perimeter, they weren't awarded many free throws -- making 15-of-16. Meanwhile, Toronto, which attacked the rim more, made 33-of-36 from the foul line.
It was a disappointing game for numerous Heat players, including star rookie guard Kendrick Nunn, who was held to seven points. He missed all seven of his field-goal attempts, including five from deep.
Miami's Duncan Robinson, normally one of the best shooters in the league, made just 1-of-5 shots and had three points. Bam Adebayo, an All-Star for the Heat this year, also had a quiet game, producing 10 points and eight rebounds.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was pleased with backup point guard Goran Dragic, who had 25 points, five rebounds and five assists against Toronto.
"He was fantastic," Spoelstra said. "That's exactly who he is -- a veteran, playoff-experienced point guard.
"The good news is that we have the opportunity to bounce back right away (against the Celtics)."
That's true. However, Miami is 0-2 against Boston this season. The Celtics beat Miami 112-93 on Dec. 4 and 109-101 on Jan. 28 and have won the past five regular-season meetings.
Brown was the most consistent player in those two games, scoring 31 and 25 points, respectively.
--Field Level Media
|1/28/20||BOS 109||MIA 101||109||48||47.0||101||45||37.1|
|Boston Off vs Miami Defense|
113.2 Points For
108.8 Points Against
|Miami Off vs Boston Defense|
112.2 Points For
107.3 Points Against