After two games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Celtics find themselves up 2-0 on the Toronto Raptors. Boston has had heroes step up and take over each game. It was Jayson Tatum in Game 1 and Marcus Smart and his five 4th quarter three-pointers in Game 2. However, there has been an underlying constant that the Celtics have been able to rely on: Jaylen Brown.
On offense, he has averaged 16.5 points in this series which has been overshadowed by more dominant performances. Then, defensively, he turns around and guards the Raptors’ All-Star on the other end of the court in Pascal Siakam. This versatility has been massive for the Celtics in the playoffs, specifically in a series when they need huge contributions from everyone.
When Jaylen Brown gets going on offense, he can put up the Tatum-type scoring numbers to highlight a box score. Against Toronto, he’s taken a back seat to primary ball handlers like Tatum and Kemba Walker. His points might be down, but his scoring always seems to come in crucial moments. Brown sparked the Celtics’ offense with nine early points in the first quarter of action in Game 1.
Jaylen Brown has been doing a great job of losing his defender, usually Siakam, by drifting into the corner. Once Siakam helps on defense, the ball is kicked out to Brown to knock down an open shot. To deter this offense, it requires the long, skilled defender like Siakam to have to stay around the three-point arc which, in turn, means the lane is wide open.
Outside of that, Brown also has the talent to take his defender one-on-one. Brown is feeling himself in isolation stepping back and getting off a shot over Siakam. Once he sees that bucket go through, it is all the confidence he needs to come out of the gates attacking and pulling the trigger on good looks. The Celtics offense relies on everyone to have an attack-mode mindset, and that is something that Brown offers if needed as well as his catch-and-shoot shooting.
It is not just Brown’s consistent offense that stands out for the Celtics. It is also what he can do on the other end of the floor that may almost be more beneficial to the team. Brown’s defense has been put to the test against Siakam in this series. Brown is required to defend him on the majority of possessions when the Raptors first go into their half court set. Coach Nick Nurse made an adjustment for Game 2 where there were many more times in which Siakam took the ball up the floor starting out as the primary ball handler.
Because of that adjustment, the Raptors’ offense was definitely more effective than in Game 1. Siakam had additional options being the primary ball handler to make decisions to start the offense. His teammates made more shots around him which attributed to a more efficient game for the Raptors.
Even with that, the role for Jaylen Brown stayed the same by trying to limit Siakam from points around the rim. Siakam has been focused on backing down Brown and looking for post-up points. Jaylen (and Marcus Smart) has done a great job of stalling that in these first two games. If there was a scorecard in the Brown vs. Siakam showdown, it would be clear that Brown won the first two rounds.
He may not get the overwhelming praise or the headlines after the game, but Jaylen Brown has turned into the constant cog that keeps the machine running for the Celtics. He is a double-digit scorer on one end, and he is a lockdown defender on the other.
Jayson Tatum will take over the scoring, and Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart will hit those big time shots to steal the game away. Under all that, it will be Jaylen Brown’s consistency that the Celtics will have to rely on. It is the role that suits Brown to perfection. No matter how the playoffs shape up for the rest of the way, if the Celtics look to go far towards a championship, they will ride on the consistency of Jaylen Brown.