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Jaylen Brown’s penetration game tormented Miami

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After boxing with his grandfather in quarantine, Brown has brought his “stick and move” game to the hardwood.

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat - Game Three Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There are two primary forms of offense in boxing: you either operate on the outside to beat your opponent with long-range jabs and counter punches or get in close and attack with hard-hitting blows to the body and head.

Basketball is similar. There are times when you can “win on points” by consistently landing your jabs, but rarely getting in close, and others where the fight is gritty, forcing you to work your inside game. The best boxers, just like with the basketball teams, understand that for consistent success, you blend these two offensive styles. By hurting the body, you open up opportunities on the outside, and vice versa.

The Celtics are an outstanding basketball team, but they can forget that lesson sometimes. Suffering from situational narcolepsy, the Celtics displayed an ineptitude to see Game 1 and 2 through to the buzzer.

In Game 3, a switch was flipped.

No longer did the Celtics appear timid; instead, they came out ready to fight. Bobbing and weaving, they hit the Heat with a steady stream of body blows to open the contest, with Jaylen Brown leading the way. Starting the series as a virtual spectator, posted up on the weak side corner, Brown rarely imposed his will on Miami.

Over the first two games of the series, the 23-year-old wing only drove a total of 11 times. On Saturday, Brown had 19 drives in one game.

Brown entered the league as a “drive first” wing, who was always looking to exploit his athletic abilities around the rim. For the most part, he was successful, with only his poor left hand dribble keeping him down. However, this season, Brown’s improved handle and the ridiculously enhanced jumper have seen his offensive role take new forms depending on the matchup.

The fact remains that regardless of the 223-pound wing’s 38.2% scoring from three, he’s most effective when driving close outs and finishing around the rim.

With Brown finishing 64% of his attempts at the rim during the regular season (going 178-for-280). At 6’6 with a lightening quick burst of pace, the Golden Bears alum is capable of some extraordinary things once he gets going downhill.

Against Miami, the Celtics were in dire need of somebody attacking the body, to punish the Heat’s wing defenders as they closed out, particularly in their 2-3 zone. Brown’s aggression stood out.

In the above play, Brown displays all the instincts required to be successful in attacking the rim. Incisive in his decision making, Brown recognizes there’s no big body on the low help-line blocking his driving lane, crosses over, and attacks Duncan Robinson with a straight-line drive to the hoop.

After getting a couple of shots from the inside, Brown then hit his opponent with the jab.

However, having thrown two jabs throughout the contest, you could see Brown was inclined to continue attacking the body, looking to break the Heat’s will.

Kemba Walker feeds the rock to Brown, who catches it on the “run through” to build his momentum upon receiving the ball. Jae Crowder is pinching on Walker to offer Duncan some help containing the All-Star guard, which provides Brown the space to beat his man off the catch.

Once the athletic wing gets in front of you, it’s game over. Rising for the finish before Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo can situate themselves to offer any form of rim protection, Brown finishes the play will a beautiful finger roll at the rim.

On defense, the former #3 draft selection led the charge with his effort, leading the team with four deflections. Couple that peskiness with his three steals and seven rebounds, and Brown was getting it done on both ends of the floor.

We have seen two-way performances from Brown scattered throughout these playoffs. However, none of them were played with this intensity level - with such a distinct desire to win.

In attacking the body (or rim in this instance), the Georgia native returned to the play style that suits his skillset most, beating defenders before they’re set and causing the defense to collapse as he penetrates at 100 miles per hour. It’s no surprise that Brown’s most instinctual game in recent memory ended with five assists to cap off his night.

Here’s what driving into the teeth of the defense can do for your offensive game. Brown’s embarking on yet another interior attack, and the Heat flooded the paint to contest the shot. With almost all of Miami’s five players now guarding the interior (two behind, two in front), Brown rises to threaten a layup, then fires a pass to Grant Williams who’s in the weak side corner. Bucket.

With Game 4 coming on Wednesday, Brown could make a real statement by getting straight to work on the Heat’s interior again. Penetrating a zone and punishing the defense with ferocious finishes and smart passing will be critical for Boston. Luckily, Brown spent most of quarantine working on his boxing game, so he knows what it takes to win a fight.