Two weeks prior on the floor of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Gordon Hayward had a perfect shooting night, going 9-for-9 from the field. Back inside that arena again with the stakes much higher for the Celtics in Game 3 of their first round NBA playoff series versus the Pacers, Jaylen Brown delivered a nearly copycat performance.
Brown torched the Pacers in a 104-96 victory for the Celtics by scoring a game-high 23 points. While the volume of points isn’t staggering, Brown’s 8-for-9 shooting line in 35 minutes is surely eye-catching and is a stark contrast to his play on the offensive end in the first two games of the series.
Coming into Game 3, Brown was a combined 4-for-11 from the field, including an 0-for-5 mark from beyond the arc, for just eight points. And for Brown, who was inserted into the starting lineup to begin the playoffs with Marcus Smart sidelined due to a torn oblique, his breakout performance comes at just the right time and ensures that the C’s can at least pack their brooms with them when they go for the series sweep on Easter Sunday.
“Every game varies. Every game’s different,” Brown said. “Game 1 was much different from Game 3. I’m just trying to be locked in and be aggressive when I’m out there. Things are going to change. Lineups are going to be switched around. I’m just trying to come out and be aggressive and tonight some shots happened to fall.”
It didn’t seem as though Brown’s offensive woes hurt his confidence. Brown, who is known more for attacking the rim with his elite athleticism, knocked down two first-quarter treys to kick start his stellar showing.
Brown’s 3-point shot has taken a dip in his third NBA season. After shooting 39.5% from beyond the arc a year ago, Brown regressed to shoot just 34.4% on 3-point shots this season. But Brown hit 4-of-5 of his 3-pointers in Game 3 and when that shot is falling, he looks more like the player he was in the playoffs last season when he was Boston’s second-leading scorer with 18 points per game.
Those long range shots — Brown especially has a penchant for those corner 3-pointers —helps open up the rest of his offensive game. Brown’s comfort rests in driving to the basket and he got to the rim for a slam dunk after hitting those two first-quarter triples. From there on, he was able to get into the lane for pull-up jumpers.
Brown’s one miss, besides his inaccuracy at the free-throw line where he shot a beleaguered 3-for-7, came with 4:42 left in regulation when Kyrie Irving got him the ball late and Brown rushed up a 3-point attempt late in the shot clock.
The emergence of Brown will be critical going forward with the Pacers continuing to pay extremely close attention to Irving. That will create opportunities for others to step up like Brown did in Game 3. He could have the chance to shine again in Game 4.
The good news is there are opportunities for the taking and Brown isn’t shying away from them even after struggling to start the series.
“(Brown’s) been great in all three games defensively and I thought he made the pass of the game the other night and today it was his turn to get a few more shots,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “We just have to keep moving it and finding the next right guy. If that means you get seven open (shots) one night and none the next, you got to move it until we find the right one. That’s the encouraging part, not necessarily how many shots go down, but finding the right ones.”