BOSTON – Fresh off a brutal loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, and with the drama of Ime Udoka’s return ringing throughout the building, the Boston Celtics returned to TD Garden on Saturday night in search of a win.
Jaylen Brown responded by scoring or assisting on nine of their first 11 points.
A dish to Kristaps Porzingis for a three, two mid-range jumpers, and a strong drive to the basket was enough to kickstart a Celtics’ offense that went on to put up 145 points–tied for their second-most in a game this season and the most allowed by the Houston Rockets so far this year.
Brown’s chemistry with Porzingis has been one of the season's top storylines, but he’s also found ways of maintaining his own aggressiveness.
“It’s an intricate balance. And that’s part of being a leader,” Brown said. “That’s something that I got to figure out a little bit more, just to keep our guys rolling, keep our guys feeling confident.
“At times, I have nights like tonight where I just feel, offensively, I’m being a lot more aggressive scoring the ball. But at times, I gotta make sure I’m getting more guys involved, and that’s been a part of my development.”
While the turnaround middies were sweet, Brown’s play in transition stood out above all else. It’s a playstyle he’s embraced this season, acting as the Celtics’ go-to force on the break.
Brown earned himself two and-1s by pushing the pace against the Rockets, contributing to an uber-efficient scoring night. He ended the game with 32 points, six rebounds, and two assists while shooting 11-of-15 from the floor and 4-of-6 from deep.
The Celtics star leads the league in total shots in transition this season at 175 and ranks second in points (265) behind only Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And of players with at least 20 games played, he’s sixth in transition frequency (28.3%).
The additions of Porzingis and Jrue Holiday meant more mouths to feed in Boston, yet Brown has adapted his game to mesh with the new-look Celtics offense. Transition opportunities have become his bread and butter.
Brown’s authority on the break has been fueled by his season-long commitment to the defensive side of the ball, and Saturday night was a pristine example.
His two steals led directly to transition opportunities, and his two blocks sent TD Garden into a frenzy, both of which completely demoralized sophomore forward Jabari Smith Jr.
From his increased aggressiveness in transition to his blossoming development as a playmaker, Brown’s impact on winning has spanned greater lengths than ever before this season.
“Yeah, I mean, and I still think I’m continuing to,” Brown said when asked if he thinks he’s playing the best basketball of his career. “I said the same thing last month, and now we’re saying another month in. So, I still think I have a lot of potential that I haven’t tapped into, and I’m learning the game.
“This is a beautiful game that we all get to watch and play, and I’m having fun learning and trying to reach my full potential, on top of being a team guy, on top of making sure our guys are in the right spots, and being the leader.”
It’s been a season of immense growth for Brown, and despite that, the peak of his play may not even be on the horizon yet.
“It’s been fun trying to figure out how to be the best version of Jalen Brown,” said Brown. “As time has gone on and as the years have gone on, I feel like I’ve gotten better each and every year, and I don’t think that’s going to stop any time soon.”