clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Green With Envy: Jaylen Brown’s baby steps

Without Jayson Tatum, the Celtics All-Star flexed as the primary scorer on Saturday.

Boston Celtics v Toronto Raptors Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

With 7:08 left in the 4th quarter, Jaylen Brown scored his last basket of Saturday evening’s victory over the Toronto Raptors. He stepped into a wide open shot off of an offensive rebound and buried a straightaway 3 from the top of the key. It was his 8th point of the final frame and his second three pointer.

Normally when Jaylen gets rolling, this would be precursor to a heat check 3 on a subsequent possession. As I like to say, there aren’t many guys in the league with as many NBA Jam, “he’s on fire” moments as #7.

However, this game was different. This bucket would be Jaylen’s last field goal attempt as he shifted his mindset and provided a glimpse of nascent playmaking ability.

With Jayson Tatum out with a wrist injury and Marcus Smart having rolled his ankle at the end of the first half, Jaylen was the primary initiator of the offense down the stretch, and the Toronto Raptors were able to focus their defensive game plan on him. Take a look at the very next possession following that final three pointer.

One of the keys to being a table setter is to get rid of the ball a count earlier rather than a count later. The Raptors switch the screen here, and Grant Williams slips on the short roll. Jaylen, who on other nights might have waited for the roll man to clear and gone iso on a more favorable matchup, trusts his teammate to make the right play. This anticipation shows that the Jaylen is processing the correct read and seeing the game “slow down.” Grant misses the layup, but the decision is what matters.

On the very next possession, Jaylen jumps an outlet pass for one his three steals and once again breaks from his score first mentality. This pass is a bit off target and arguably should’ve been a lob over the top (watch Grant’s feet backpedal as if preparing for that pass), but Precious Achiuwa is a long, athletic defender with great anticipation.

Precious loads into a defensive position that suggests he is expecting the lob, and so Jaylen makes the decision to throw a bounce pass. It’s a tad off target due to the initial miscommunication, so Grant is unable to convert, but the process again is what matters. After a possession in which Jaylen entrusted a failed scoring opportunity to Williams, Brown makes another unselfish play.

There were a few other instances of JB’s unselfishness in this seven-minute stretch, but the last I want to highlight is the game winning bucket. The Celtics are in a stack pick-and-roll scenario with Payton Pritchard setting the second screen to free up Grant Williams on the roll. Payton then slips out to the opposite wing leaving Jaylen to make the ultimate decision.

As a coach, the most simple rule of unselfish basketball is when you see two or more bodies with their shoulders/numbers square to you, move the ball to the open man (when I was coaching I narrowed this down to “see two and move”). Here you can see Gary Trent completely committed to stopping Jaylen, probably assuming Jaylen will force a bad decision and careen into traffic. But Jaylen sees Trent and Precious lurking in the paint and decides to keep the game simple. See two, and move.

Jaylen Brown has been a lightning rod for criticism this season. It seems Celtics fans have accepted the Marcus Smart Experience for what it is and have shifted their attention towards the Celtics budding superstar instead. Personally, I think fans and media are starting to give him a bit of the Russell Westbrook treatment, being overly critical of his flaws without giving him enough credit for his greatness.

Not that he is above criticism, because I think Jaylen is self-aware enough to recognize he still his holes in his game, but in reality, Jaylen still hasn’t had too many opportunities to be a primary initiator of the offense. This is in part because that’s not his best skillset, and also because the Celtics are loaded with very good decision makers who have the seasoning to make the right plays when it matters.

However, the book has not been written on the 26 year old’s ability to make plays for others, and hopefully this is a game he can come back to whenever he needs a reminder of how keeping the game simple can result in winning basketball.

Tune into the rest of this episode to hear more discussion on Payton Pritchard’s big night, Grant Williams continued development, and a whole lot more discourse surrounding the streaking Boston Celtics.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Celtics Blog Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Boston Celtics news from Celtics Blog