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Jaylen Brown makes NBA history as he continues his ascension

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Brown needed just 19 minutes to enter the NBA record books.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

There’s only one direction Jaylen Brown is headed this season.

Upward.

Brown, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 draft by the Boston Celtics, continues to dazzle with his steady improvement that has developed him into one of the premiere players in the NBA in his fifth season. Brown set a new career-high in points already this year by netting 42 points against Memphis and he matched that total again Friday in a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

While Brown’s incredible growth offensively has yielded him personal accomplishments, Sunday it helped him grab a piece of NBA history.

In a 141-103 blowout win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the 24-year-old Brown was on the floor for just 19 minutes, but scored 33 points, the most by any player in the shot clock era while playing less than 20 minutes.

“I’m just grateful just to be put in positions to have responsibility,” said Brown, who finished 13-of-20 from the field. “I’ve look forward to the challenge. I’m grateful it’s finally gotten here, but just trying to do my best with what I got.”

Foul trouble ended up helping Brown in this lone occasion to enter the NBA record books. Brown picked up three fouls in the first half and played just over a minute of the second quarter.

But Brown exploded for 20 points in the third quarter, carving up Cleveland’s defense to ensure he and the rest of Boston’s starters could rest for the entire final frame. For Brown, it was the fifth time this season he registered at least 30 points in a game and his offensive production has been especially necessary lately with Jayson Tatum out of the lineup due to health and safety protocols.

“He’s in a great rhythm scoring,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “He’s making great physical drives, obviously open catch-and-shoot shots and then also really tough shots sprinkled in. He’s constantly working to improve. He doesn’t play passive. His skill, his improvement and his aggressiveness are a good combination.”

Brown demonstrated his progress offensively by scoring in a myriad of ways against the Cavs. He’s no longer just relying on his sheer athleticism to create scoring opportunities as he did when he first entered the league.

Instead, with the ball in his hands more this season, Brown is in total control, picking out exactly where he wants to go on the floor to get his shot.

His historic outing consisted of a small handful of mid-range jumpers, including a sweet fallaway turnaround in the paint to kick-start his night. Brown’s vast improvement with his mid-range shot is so significant that it has become nearly automatic for him at this point.

Brown’s performance also included a 3-for-4 showing from beyond the arc and not just hitting open catch-and-shoot triples, either. With Cleveland’s defense preparing for Brown to drive to the hoop — he did that several times featuring tremendous strength and body control that has raised his finishing ability greatly — he showed he could drain pull-up 3-pointers with relative ease.

“The way that he’s scoring,” said Marcus Smart on the evolution of Brown’s offensive game. “His patience, his poise when he has the ball. His rookie year, year two, that Jaylen Brown just put his head down and go. Now, he understands where he’s going. He worked hard. Got to give him credit and it shows. That’s why he’s one of the best young players in this game.”

But Brown isn’t ready to gloat or celebrate the fact that he is now in the upper echelon of players in the NBA. Brown keeps his laser focus on what is ahead of him because that is what has allowed him to grow into the player blossoming as a true star this season.

“Obviously, extremely grateful to be in that position, but I’m looking forward to the next one,” Brown said.