Jayson Tatum hurt himself on Dec. 20 against the Heat

Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

Jayson Tatum can't make 3-pointers anymore, and the reason is obvious

John Tomase
February 09, 2018 - 1:46 pm

On Dec. 20, Jayson Tatum dove for a loose ball against the Heat as the league's leading 3-point shooter. He came up clutching his mangled right pinky and has shot them like Marcus Smart ever since.

If you're looking for a reason why Tatum's 3-point shooting has dropped from .515 on Dec. 20 to .315 in the 23 games since, that dive is the first and only place to start.

Tatum badly dislocated the pinky on his shooting hand when he was kicked while trying to corral a loose ball at midcourt. He left the floor in pain, his finger bent sideways at a 90-degree angle before the medical staff snapped it into place, taped him up, and sent him back to the bench. He ended up playing 28 minutes in a one-point loss.

As Tatum continues to struggle from beyond the arc -- Brad Stevens left him on the bench in the closing seconds of regulation with the Celtics needing a 3-pointer in Thursday's overtime victory against the Wizards -- the connection between his injury and his shooting woes appears pretty apparent.

On Dec. 20, Tatum led the NBA in 3-point shooting at .515, having made 51 of 99. Since then he has made just 23 of 73 for a .315 percentage. After sinking at least half of his 3's in 20 of the team's first 33 games, he has met that threshold only six times in 23 games since.

To his credit, he has found other ways to contribute. He's one of three Celtics to appear in every game, and a month shy of his 20th birthday, he leads the team in minutes played. His career highs in blocks (6), assists (5), and steals (4) have all come since the injury, and he erupted for a career-high 27 points in a recent win over the Hawks despite missing his only 3-point attempt of the night.

He has become increasingly confident taking opponents off the dribble, and his midrange game remains steady.

Whether he regains his 3-point stroke remains to be seen, but it's pretty easy to draw a straight line between his dip in that department, and the injury he suffered seven weeks ago.

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