Isaiah Thomas will always be the “King in the Fourth,” but Jaylen Brown is quietly making a run at the crown.
Brown has played some of his best basketball in the fourth quarter this season. He has some work to do to catch The Little Guy – who led the league in fourth-quarter points in 2016-17 – yet Brown is in the hunt to claim that same title.
So far, he’s scored the fourth-most points (257), behind only Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMar DeRozan, and LeBron James. He has the fourth-most field goals made per fourth quarter (3.0) and the fifth-highest field goal percentage (53.6) among the top-25 fourth-quarter scorers.
He even has the fourth-highest 3-point percentage (41.1) among players on that list. Brown is doing it on both ends, with the second-most steals per fourth quarter (0.4) among those 25 stars. His plus-minus is tied with Jayson Tatum (plus-85) for best in the NBA in the final quarter.
But wait a minute. How do those stats compare to Tatum’s? I’m glad you asked. Brown has more total fourth-quarter points than Tatum (250), but Tatum has played two fewer games, so Tatum’s scoring average is slightly higher (8.1 to 7.8). Brown, however, is shooting nearly four percentage points better from the field (49.7 for Tatum) and more than six percentage points better from 3 (34.9 percent for Tatum).
He’s also doubling Tatum in fourth-quarter steals per game. His well-timed hustle play Monday night helped pave the way for a Celtics win against the pesky Bulls.
This isn’t to say Tatum has come up short in the fourth. In fact, he’s done just the opposite. The point is that when Tatum is doubled and Brown is the beneficiary, he’s taking advantage.
In the clip above, watch how Brown sees the opening, attacks the basket, controls the ball (that’s the most important part) and plays to his strengths. He still sometimes settles for silly step backs, but he’s grown as a decision-maker this year and has upped the level of execution late in games.
OK, now how do his numbers in the fourth compare to the rest of the game? Maybe he’s just really good. Well, yes, he is, but they’re markedly better in the fourth than in quarters one through three.
For starters, 7.8 points per game in the fourth would put him at 31.2 for the game, which is better than his actual average of 26.8. His field goal percentage is over four points better (49.2 on the season), and his 3-point accuracy is nearly nine percentage points higher (32.5 on the season). More than a third of his steals come in the fourth as well.
Hold up one more time. Is he doing all this simply because he’s playing more minutes in the fourth? Nope, he’s not. He’s averaging 8.7 minutes in the fourth compared to 8.9 minutes in the other quarters. He’s simply rising to the occasion when the lights are brightest. Keep in mind that the Celtics have had many blowout wins where Brown sits the final minutes, which makes the trend even more impressive.
It’s not just in blowouts, though. In a tight win over the Clippers, he scored 12 points in the quarter. On Christmas Day, he poured in 13 points, on 5-of-7 shooting, as the Celtics distanced themselves from the Bucks. Against the Timberwolves, he exploded for 23 of his 36 points and willed the Celtics to a win.
Look at the versatility he shows in the highlight reel below. On the first fourth-quarter finish (1:42), he gets the defender in the air, makes a quick move, composes himself and converts at the rim. Moments later, the defender has to respect the drive, and he makes them pay by sticking a 3.
He adds a put-back, a thunderous transition dunk, a layup, another 3 (he’s locked in now), then misses a dunk and puts it back in (just for fun). What was once a one-point game early in the fourth turned into a 12-point Celtics win behind his brilliance.
He’s shot 50 percent or better in the fourth in six of the Celtics’ last eight games and is getting buckets in a variety of ways.
Next time the Celtics are in a tight game late, and Brown has the rock, expect him to make a strategically sound play. He does so more often than not, and he should be getting more credit for his excellence in the fourth than he is.