Tatum and Curry each had 12 points in the first quarter, gearing up the Boston Celtics crowd for a classic between the greatest shooter of all-time and a budding superstar.
And then, the budding superstar went cold, and the all-time great added another legendary performance to his career highlight film.
Curry finished with 43 points on 14-26 shooting, including 7-14 from three, carrying the Golden State Warriors to a 107-97 Game 4 victory to even the NBA Finals at 2-2.
For Tatum, the remaining three quarters were a different story. He scored just 11 points in the final 36 minutes, shooting just 4-17 from the floor after his efficient first quarter.
“You got to give them credit,” Tatum said in his postgame press conference. “They’re a great team. They’re playing well.
“But it’s on me. I got to be better. I know I’m impacting the games in other ways, but I got to be more efficient. Shoot the ball better, finish at the rim better. I take accountability for that. I just look forward to Monday and leave this one behind us.”
Turnovers have plagued the Celtics all postseason, and Tatum has been particularly loose with the ball, averaging 4.1 turnovers a game in the playoffs.
Tatum had six of the Celtics’ 15 turnovers Friday and struggled to find a balance between getting shots and making plays for his teammates.
“At times, he’s looking for fouls,” Celtics head coach Ime Udoka said. “They are a team that loads up. Certain games he’s finding the outlets. Shooting over two, three guys. That’s the balance of being aggressive and picking your spots and doing what he’s done the previous games, which is kicked it out and (got) guys wide open looks.
“So, that’s the ongoing theme, so to speak. Him going to the basket and being a scorer as well as a playmaker. And they do a good job with their rotations. But sometimes hunting fouls instead of going to finish. I’ve seen that in a few games so far.”
Following an opening-round sweep of the Brooklyn Nets, the Celtics have not made it easy on themselves, going just 5-4 at home in the last three rounds.
“We don’t do this s*** on purpose,” Tatum said following the loss. “I promise you we don’t. We try as hard as we can, but there are certain things we need to clean up. Turnovers, movement on the offensive end. Would we have liked to have won today and be up 3-1? That would have been best-case scenario. But it’s the Finals.
“In the art of competition, they came in here feeling like they had to win. It wasn’t easy, and I think that’s kind of the beauty of it. That it’s not going to be easy, and it shouldn’t be. We both want it, and we have to go take it.”
Game 5 of the NBA Finals is Monday at 9 p.m. ET in San Francisco.