Despite the disappointing loss, Jaylen Brown turned in one of his better games this season. He finished with 22 points on 9-of-18 shooting. Those are the most field goal attempts he’s taken all year. With Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart ruled out, Brown was inserted in the starting lineup and it seemed to invigorate his game. In his post-game presser, he talked about “playing free and playing loose.” It was a call back performance from last season.
After the game, Brown was also free and loose with his post-game comments. After a road trip that featured a three-game losing streak, an ugly shoving match between him and Marcus Morris in Miami, and some pointed comments from Kyrie Irving, Brown did not mince words about what ails this team.
Initially, when asked about Kyrie’s positive message to the team following the loss, Brown’s comments included, “we gotta be more accountable as a group. It’s not one guy’s fault, it’s not young guys’, old guys’ fault, it’s everybody. So we all gotta be accountable and turn this thing around. For stretches, we play good basketball. For stretches, we don’t. We all gotta have each other’s back.”
While those quotes were game specific, Brown didn’t stop there. When asked about how the team can play less uptight like they did last year, Brown doubled down and seemed to address Kyrie’s criticism from Saturday. “We just gotta have each other’s back at the end of the day. We can’t make comments. We can’t point fingers. We just gotta continue to empower each other and have each other’s back,” Brown said.
“If we don’t, we start pointing fingers and everybody’s going to go into their own little shell. We gotta continue to play basketball. It starts from the top to the bottom, not from the bottom to the top, but from the top to the bottom. We gotta to continue to empower each other and make the best of this. We got a lot of talent here. We know what we’re capable of doing. It’s just a matter of going out and doing it. Playing free, playing loose, and having fun.”
After taking criticism from Morris for not getting back on D in transition on Thursday and Kyrie calling on the young players on Saturday, Brown didn’t seem to back down on his sentiment.
Even when asked about the poor defense in the third quarter against the Nets, he steered the conversation back to the bigger picture and a need to be a united front. “We gotta have more of a presence. We gotta get that identity back that we have, you know what I mean?,” Brown said. “It’s there. We just gotta bring it out of each other. How many of us are making each other better? That’s what it comes down to and it starts from the top to the bottom.”
Finally, Brown relishes the idea of the East-leading Raptors visiting on Wednesday. He called it a “perfect opportunity.” The Celtics seem to always follow up these rough stretches with big wins against the other East contenders. After a downer pre-season, they beat the 76ers handily at home. After a 1-4 road trip out west, they took care of the Raptors in overtime. After a three-game losing streak coming into the holidays, they got another win against Philly on Christmas Day.
“Every day is a new day in this league, of course Toronto is at the top of the East and we know that,” Brown said. “We’re going to come out and play. Hopefully, everybody comes out with the right mindset, we can get it going, we have each other’s back, and we get a win.”