The Boston Celtics took on the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center on Sunday night, and they walked out with a 103-92 victory in hand. With Marcus Smart out due to a left hip contusion sustained during the team’s overtime loss to the Heat on Friday, Boston went into Brooklyn without their top offensive facilitator, and it showed. Boston tallied only 17 assists on the night and leaned heavily on their stars, with the Nets forcing Jayson Tatum into 9 turnovers.
While Tatum finished with 29 points on 10-of-19 shooting with 11 rebounds and 4 steals, it was Jaylen Brown who got the Celtics going in the early running. Brown scored 20 points in the first quarter alone, and finished the night with 34 points on 10-of-20 shooting, 5-of-9 from three, 9-of-11 from the stripe, 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and four blocks. Brown hit 5 three pointers in the first quarter, which has only happened twice in franchise history, once before with Brown and once with Ray Allen.
“Just being aggressive,” said Jaylen Brown on how he got going offensively against Brooklyn. “I’ve seen one go in, then I got another good look, another one in, and then it was on and cracking at that point.” The strong outing comes after Brown’s 37-point, 14-rebound, 5-assist performance against the Heat on Friday.
With the offense struggling with Smart sidelined and the Nets keying in on Jayson Tatum, Boston relied heavily on their defense, which was their calling card last season. Under Joe Mazzulla, the team has erupted on the offensive end, but their defense hasn’t been the same. In Sunday’s matchup, there was a glimmer of what Boston is capable of when they need to lock in, and that was without Robert Williams in the fold. The Celtics nabbed 11 steals and blocked 9 shots on the night, and their defensive pressure forced Kevin Durant into 8 turnovers by himself.
“I think that’s the key. I think that’s what we’ve been putting the emphasis on,” said Brown of the team’s effort on defense against the Nets. “I think we’ve been scoring the ball at a hot-clip of record-breaking numbers, but defensively we can’t let that rope slip. So tonight was a great game, I think me and (Jayson) played both sides of the ball...when we lead the way, everybody else has gotta join in.”
Players with multiple 30/10 games with 5 threes this season:— StatMuse (@statmuse) December 5, 2022
— Jaylen Brown
— Jayson Tatum
That’s it. pic.twitter.com/bQRRDC85d0
Malcolm Brogdon spoke highly of Brown, and said that he believed he should make the All-NBA team this season. “To get caught up in accolades, and how people feel, and the politics of the game, It’s not really my concern right now,” said Brown, “I want to get to the playoffs, and I want to show what I can do there. I think I could play with the best of them.”
There definitely seemed to be some serious competitive fire in Brown in the game, which makes sense given the Kevin Durant rumors over the offseason; Brown isn’t the kind of player to forget those kind of things, and uses it as fuel and motivation.
“I know what my capabilities are, but my emphasis right now is on winning games, and leading this team back to the Finals,” said Brown, “So that’s where my point of emphasis is. Aything else that comes along, whatever...I’m really focused on getting us back to the NBA Finals.”
Even with high hopes after their Finals trip last season, the Celtics start to the season has far exceeded anyone’s expectations, especially when you consider the absence of Robert Williams as well as Danilo Gallinari. But the Celtics have remained steadfast in their belief and long-term goal, especially from their leaders like Brown, Tatum and Smart. Boston will look to continue rolling as they take on the Toronto Raptors in the second leg of their back-to-back on Monday night.