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Jaylen Brown shoulders responsibility for defensive breakdown on final play

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Brown pointed the finger at himself for Boston’s loss.

Toronto Raptors v Boston Celtics - Game Three Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Jaylen Brown did all he could to get back to OG Anunoby, who was left wide open in the far corner of the court with 0.5 seconds remaining.

Brown contested the shot, but he was a half second too late and it was the difference between a win and a loss.

Anunoby’s buzzer-beating, game-winning 3-pointer to lift Toronto to a 104-103 victory Thursday was a gut punch to the Celtics, who were less than a second away from taking complete control of their Eastern Conference semifinal series and now have to settle from a slim 2-1 series lead. It was also a blow to Brown, who was terrific all game defensively except for the final play and blamed himself for allowing Anunoby to get off and hit the winning shot.

“It’s just a miscommunication. That’s really all that happened,” Brown said. “At the end of the day, we just got to be better as a unit. Regardless of what (defense) we were in, we had to guard the 3-point line, so that was just a (expletive) disgrace at the end of the game. That was just terrible. No way we should have lost that game. I take responsibility for that, not just that play, but a lot of the plays before.”

Brown didn’t let himself off the hook there. He broke down the play further as the Celtics came out in a zone defense for the final play. As Anunoby goes from one corner to another as the play begins, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart point to try to make sure Brown is fully aware of Anunoby.

Brown instead picks up Marc Gasol and gets caught up with Gasol, preventing him from getting to Anunoby in time and having to watch Anunoby drill the 3-pointer to send the Raptors into celebration. Brown’s frustration and anger for his lack of execution was evident postgame, as he dropped not one, but three F-bombs during his press conference with reporters.

“We were matched up and OG snuck along the baseline and didn’t recognize him early enough and he got a wide-open look,” Brown said. “We got to be better than that. We got to communicate better. Me being four years in, I got to be better. Can’t give up a three at the end of the game. They made a remarkable shot still, but it’s a (expletive) disgrace. It’s terrible. No excuse for it, at all.”

While Brown took onus for the defensive lapse, Tatum wouldn’t put the sequence all on his teammate, and echoed that the five Celtics players on the floor needed better communication to close out the game.

“We just got to communicate better,” Tatum said. “All five guys have to be on one page. It’s on all of us.”

Brown played the most of any Celtic in the loss, totaling 40 minutes and he was productive on both ends of the floor by compiling 19 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.

He soon won’t forget the final half second of Game 3, though, even as he tries to block the moment from his memory and get ready for Game 4 Saturday.

“We got to move on to Game 4,” Brown said. “That’s the focus now. There’s nothing we can do about it. We just got to move on. It’s tough, but that’s the playoffs.”