A rough stretch of play had some questioning the contending legitimacy of the Boston Celtics. In their first 13 games coming out of the All-Star break, they went 7-6, and in four of those games, they blew double-digit leads. But in their last three, they have turned a corner.
Boston seems to be back on track, picking up big wins over the Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers in back-to-back games. However, with Jayson Tatum sidelined for their Sunday evening tilt against the San Antonio Spurs, they needed someone to step up.
Enter Jaylen Brown.
“When you get the opportunity to be the guy that everybody’s kind of leaning on, it’s a privilege and an honor,” Brown said post-game. “So, I don’t take those moments for granted. I come out each and every night, I strap my shoes up, and I get my guys ready to go.”
Brown put on a master class of a performance against the Spurs, dropping a game-high 41 points to go along with 13 rebounds and three assists. He shot 18-of-29 from the field and 2-of-10 from behind the three-point line.
Giving JB his flowers pic.twitter.com/0ZLfROyKvO— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 27, 2023
For the entirety of the game, Brown took it upon himself to create chances and bully the Spurs on the offensive end. He got to any spot on the floor that he wanted to, masterfully picking apart the defense every chance he got.
“He’s always had the ability to score, but now he has the ability to break defenses down,” said head coach Joe Mazzulla. “To understand how the defense is guarding him. To anticipate where the help is coming from, and then to make the right play. And so, to me, his scoring is obviously huge for us, but his decision-making and his reads have gotten a lot better. It’s a credit to him because he works at it every single day.”
Brown was a +28 against the Spurs (second on the Celtics), and whenever Boston needed a bucket, he delivered. His ability to get comfortable, find his rhythm, and score at will is a skill he’s carefully curated throughout his career. Over the years, Brown has changed roles time and time again, but for the past two seasons, he’s been able to hone in on his craft and refine his game.
“I’ve, one, gotten better and improved through experience,” Brown explained. “Just maturation as a basketball player and as a man. Two, I’ve cultivated the style of play that I feel like is conducive for me but also our team. “
For the majority of the season, Jayson Tatum has dominated the spotlight. His early-season MVP campaign made headlines, but since All-Star Weekend, it’s been Brown making a strong case for All-NBA consideration.
He leads the Celtics in scoring since the break, but his shot profile has changed. Brown is taking less threes, focusing on getting to the basket more, and his efficiency is through the roof — 51.4% from the field and 38.8% from distance. Only two players have made more field goals than Brown since the break: Joel Embiid and Devin Booker.
With the playoffs inching closer by the day, Brown’s dominance has the Celtics in a good spot, and he’s set to reap the rewards of his elite play by season’s end.
“He’s the best shooting guard in the league,” said Malcolm Brogdon. “He’ll be All-NBA. He’ll make one of the teams this year. And his game really speaks for himself. When JT is out, he’s a #1 option, and he’s showing that he can be that. He’s put in the work. He’s evolved since we came to the league together. He’s evolved and taken giant steps forward every year. He’s playing at an extremely high level.”