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Jaylen Brown bounces back to close Game 5

The Celtics All-Star led the team to a win after a disastrous first half.

2022 NBA Playoffs - Boston Celtics v Miami Heat Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The Boston Celtics completed one of the best second half turnarounds in league history this season. Midway through January, the Celtics were stuck around .500, but now they’re one game away from advancing to The NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.

Jaylen Brown completed a similar turnaround in Saturday night’s 93-80 win over the Miami Heat in Game 5.

In the first half, Brown was responsible for four of Bostons’ 10 turnovers, scored only six points, and shot just 2-of-7 from the field. However, in the second half, Brown was one of the primary reasons behind the Celtics’ dominant victory.

After the contest, head coach Ime Udoka revealed what he told Brown after his rough stretch. His message was to stop acting surprised and to be stronger with the ball in his hands.

You’re acting like you’re surprised that they’re reaching and poking it from behind. It wasn’t as much live-ball turnovers just trying to make a nice pass. It was literally getting taken from us. So, be strong with the ball. It’s five games now. We’re having way too many of these types of turnovers, not being strong with the ball in the crowd. He understood that.

Udoka’s advice paid off, as Brown was a completely different player after halftime. He dropped a team-high 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting and didn’t commit a single turnover. He continued to remain aggressive, but as Udoka told him, he kept a noticeably firmer grip on the ball.

Just look at the difference between these two plays.

Here, Brown is loose with the ball. He opens up his body to the floor, allowing Victor Oladipo to reach in and steal it away. These were the types of turnovers that cost the Celtics in Game 3.

But Brown played with a whole new energy here. After halftime, it’s clear that Brown made a concerted effort to protect the ball. Despite being in transition, he takes the time to secure the ball with two hands while simultaneously avoiding Kyle Lowry. In turn, he’s rewarded with an and-one.

Brown also spoke about his turnover issues after the game. Similar to what Udoka told the media, Brown said it was all about getting settled in.

Just had to get settled in. That’s it. As the game wears on, some of that energy, some of that intensity starts to wear off. So, the game opens up a little bit. The game opened up for me in a second half.

So far this postseason, Brown has recorded at least four turnovers in five games. The Celtics have gone 2-3 in those contests. However, in the 11 games he’s had less than four, Boston has gone 9-2. (This includes a 3-0 record when he records only one turnover.)

The 25-year-old ended the night leading the team in scoring (25 points) and plus/minus (+20). He also led the night in the “monster dunk” category, slamming home what might be the dunk of the playoffs so far. (Sorry, Andrew Wiggins.)

In addition to admitting his own mistakes, Brown said that his team needed him to be better. He talked about the importance of moving forward rather than dwelling on the past.

I didn’t want to get down. Ididn’t want to look into the past, think that this game was over. My team needed me to come out and respond. First half was s***, I threw it away. Come out and play basketball in the second.

The team’s turnover stats in wins and losses mirror Brown’s. In wins this postseason, the Celtics are averaging 12.8 turnovers. But in losses, that number spikes to 16.0.

Boston will have an opportunity to close out the Heat on Friday night in Game 6. The contest tips off at 8:30 p.m. EST and can be streamed on ESPN.