As he has emerged as one of the true stars and faces of the NBA, Jayson Tatum has also matured in his approach to the game of basketball.

That has been on full display throughout the 2023-24 season and into the NBA Playoffs, as JT has guided the Boston Celtics through a gauntlet of competition to the doorstep of destiny. On Sunday the Celtics won Game 2 of the NBA Finals in Boston to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best of seven series.

They now have a chance to close the season and win the title in Dallas this week and Tatum’s growth as a player from where he was when the Celtics reached the Finals two years ago is a big reason why.

“The emphasis and where he’s grown over the last two years is to take what the defenses give him and learn to impact the game in many different ways,” Boston head coach Joe Mazzulla said. “Because of the type of team that we’ve had, especially this year, he’s seen a bunch of different coverages and he’s seen different matchups because teams have to match up with him. It’s kind of similar to a puzzle, and he’s done a great job learning how to solve the puzzle and do different things.”

There’s no doubt success has come with some sacrifice from the Bradley Beal Elite alum.

As defenses paid more attention to Jayson, the five-time All-Star and three-time All-NBA First Teamer has been forced to take a step back and assess how he can best help the Celtics win.

As a result, his numbers in some areas — most notably his usage, his minutes, his shots and his scoring— all took a hit for the Cs this season.

Jayson’s regular season usage rating of 27.6 was his lowest since his third season in the league. His 35.7 minutes per game were more than a full minute per game less than he played last season and he took almost two fewer shots and averaged three fewer points per game than last year’s career-high of 30.

But JT also saw numbers that he could control go up. His 4.9 assists per game were a career-high. His 47 percent shooting from the field was his best rate since his rookie season and he shot better than 37 percent from three for the first time in three years.

In the playoffs, Jayson has continued giving the Celtics exactly what they need.

In their first round series against Miami, he averaged just 21.8 points per game, but was all over the glass, to the tune of 10.4 rebounds per game as Boston advanced in five. In another five-game series with the Cavs, Jayson was again a beast on the glass, pulling down 10.4 boards per game, but he also averaged 26.8 points, 6.2 assists, 1.6 steals and 1 block per game.

Then in a four-game sweep of the Pacers, Jayson went into scorer mode, averaging 30.3 points per game while shooting 46 percent from the field. He also kept up his excellent rebounding, pulling down 10.3 boards per game.

In the first two games of the Finals, with the Mavericks determined to make someone else beat them, JT has turned into a facilitator and the Cs have continued to thrive. Though he is averaging just 17 points per game, he also has 17 assists, including 12 in a crucial Game 2 win on Sunday. So how has JT adjusted so seamlessly? The will to win.

“It has a lot to do with [the fact] that I’ve been here before and we didn’t win,” Tatum said after Game 2. “We’re so close to what we’re trying to accomplish; why would I let my ego or my need to score all the points get in the way of that? We always talk about, ‘Do whatever it takes for however long it takes.’ If I need to have 16 potential assists every single night and that’s what puts us in the best position to win and it doesn’t mean I’m the leading scorer, by all means. If that gives us the best chance to win, sign me up.”