CelticsBlog Player of the Week is back from All-Star Break-induced slumber, and it’s once again time to highlight a standout performer from the team’s latest stretch of games. This time, “week” is a little closer to “week-plus,” as, given that the Celtics played a truncated slate heading into the break, we’ve combined the week of February 14 with that of February 21.
This leaves us with five games to discuss: the blowout win over the Sixers on February 15, the razor-close loss to the Pistons on February 16, post-break wins over the Nets and Pistons on February 24 and 26 and the disappointing loss to the Pacers on February 27.
Our usual refresher: “Player of the Week” does not necessarily translate to “Best Player of the Week.” The idea of this award is to highlight difference-makers from the past week’s games, and to be honest, a strict focus on “best” would lead to this award pinballing back and forth between Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. They’re the team’s star players, and the most important and impactful players on the court even on their worst shooting nights.
Repeatedly writing about those two, while deserved, would be just a little bit less fun. For that reason, we’re going to broaden our standards a little bit to introduce a little more diversity in the results. The two are eligible for the award, of course, but the bar for them is just a little bit higher.
It’s a disclaimer that is a little less necessary than usual, given who took home the hardware (such as it is) for the past five games.
CelticsBlog Player of the Week(s) #4: Jaylen Brown
5 GP, 25.6 PPG, 53% FG%, 41% 3PT%, 3.6 RPG, 4.6 APG, +42
No All-Star spot? No problem. Jaylen Brown belonged in Cleveland for the 2022 All-Star Game, but he’ll have to settle for the (frankly, more illustrious) CelticsBlog Player of the Week award. This is obviously the first time either of the Celtics’ star wings has landed in this column (Jayson Tatum was once again a worthy runner-up), and it seemed like the right time to do so given his exciting stretch of performances and the circumstances of his All-Star absence.
Our two-week stretch began with a game that likely needs no introduction: the 48-point beat-down of the Philadephia 76ers. The Celtics were on top of the Sixers from the jump, and Brown was at the heart of the effort; 26 of his 29 points came in the first half as Boston built a 27-point halftime lead. He opened the night’s scoring with a smooth mid-range jumper and never looked back, compiling 11 of the team’s first 14 points.
This is the kind of game that makes you appreciate how much Brown has grown. His offensive game has grown so far from a couple of seasons ago, when he was mostly just a super-charged play finisher. He’s a bona fide shot creator now, and possibly my favorite player to watch from a shot-making perspective when he really has it going. The guy who couldn’t dribble two seasons ago is now confidently navigating screens and launching pull-up threes!
We’ll go out of order slightly to discuss both games against Detroit at once. These were the second and third meetings between the two teams, and the plucky young Pistons gave the Celtics everything they can handle both times out. Despite their lowly standing in the Eastern Conference, the Pistons have a lot of interesting pieces: a burgeoning franchise superstar (Cade Cunningham), a potent two-way wing (Jerami Grant, who hit the game-winner in the first matchup) and a collection of young talent with upside (Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart, Marvin Bagley, Killian Hayes, Hamidou Diallo). There are going to be games where they flash their potential, and the Celtics have run into two such outings.
The first contest had a “last day of work before vacation” vibe about it, as it was both the Celtics’ final game before the All-Star Break and also their second game in as many nights. As a whole, the team looked somewhat out of sorts, but they remained competitive in no small part due to 31 points from Brown. Once again, he started hot, with 12 of Boston’s first 17 points.
But it was his second half that really stood out here. Brown scored 16 after the halftime break, and he really put the full bag on display, scoring on all three levels as the two teams spent nearly the whole half separated by just one possession.
Saturday’s win over the Pistons was probably Brown’s worst statistical performance. It was a relatively inefficient night, as he connected on just 10 of his 24 shot attempts, and he also failed to record an assist on the afternoon. But similar to the first game, Brown really shone in the second half. After opening the game as a relative non-factor, shooting just 3-of-11 in the first half, he came alive in the second and shot 7-of-13 the rest of the way.
The confidence is a notable positive. Brown is a legitimately dangerous high-volume scorer, and it’s important that he isn’t deterred by poor early results. He opened up the second half with a pair of quick scores and a trip to the free throw line, and was back on track from that point onwards.
When Payton Pritchard sparked some Celtics momentum with some crucial fourth quarter buckets, Brown smelled blood in the water. After a Detroit timeout, he hit a three that broke open the game, and followed it with a pair of buckets that helped keep the Pistons at bay for good.
The Brooklyn win was a relatively quiet one on Brown’s part, as the Celtics didn’t exactly need all hands on deck to handle a Nets team missing all of their star talent. But it’s worth mentioning here that this was quietly a nice stretch for Brown as a playmaker, as he recorded six or more assists in three of these five games. He hasn’t made as significant of stride as a passer as Tatum has the past two seasons, but he’s certainly still continuing to grow.
The final game of the week was a let-down, to be sure. The Celtics fell to the Indiana Pacers on the road on Sunday evening, coming out slow in their third game in four nights while the Pacers poured in a number of high-difficulty threes. But while most of the team seemed to just be dealing with tired legs (including 2-of-12 three-point shooting from Tatum), Brown took it on himself to lift them up. He led the team in scoring with an efficient 23 points, and led the Celtics in assists (8) for just the seventh time this season.
We’re going off of pure Cool Factor for this week’s highlight. I just absolutely love this fast break layup from the first Detroit game. Terrific burst on the fast break from Brown and some simply incredible body control to double-clutch the layup. It’s just aesthetically pleasing!
That’ll do it for this week’s CelticsBlog Player of the Game. Coming up, the Celtics have three games of consequence ahead of them, all at home: Tuesday night against Atlanta, Thursday night against Memphis and a national TV matchup on Sunday afternoon against a Brooklyn squad that may very well feature Kevin Durant in the starting lineup once more.
Who was your pick for Player of the Week over the past five games, and who do you think will step up on the upcoming homestand? Sound off in the comments with your thoughts.