The Boston Celtics came within one game of last year's NBA Finals without stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. With those two re-entering the fold this season, some projected the Celtics to be the best team in the Eastern Conference.
But Boston currently sits sixth in the East at 13-10, and sophomore forward Jayson Tatum believes the team's relative lack of success may be due to it buying into the preseason talk.
"I think it was a lot of different reasons," Tatum said, according to MassLive.com's Tom Westerholm. "Maybe we believed the hype too much and we didn't come out and perform. There was a big target on our backs. The teams were coming after us and we didn't understand that. Nothing we can do about the past, just focus on the next game."
The Celtics' defense has again been dominant this year, allowing 103.1 points per 100 possessions - second best in the league, which is where it stood last year, as well.
Boston's offense, however, has struggled to effectively combine all of its pieces for an extended stretch of games. Irving and Hayward continue to work themselves back into the mix, with the latter now coming off the bench, and guard Jaylen Brown has missed time with an injured tailbone.
The team has picked up three straight wins, though, and Tatum believes the explanation for the streak is simple.
"We've just been playing better," said Tatum, who's averaged 17.3 points and 6.7 rebounds on 46.3 percent shooting over the last three outings. "Starting the game, everybody individually has been doing better. Hopefully, we get (Brown) back soon. We've been winning, so just build off that."
Boston will look to keep its winning ways alive Thursday when the New York Knicks visit The Garden.