Why Jaylen Brown's performance vs. Kings mattered most for Celtics

Nick Friar
November 26, 2019 - 6:30 am
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Marcus Smart got his revenge (and a few more favorable bounces). Tremont Waters turned some heads in his NBA debut. Enes Kanter nearly had a double-double, finishing with nine rebounds and 13 points, on an efficient 5-for-6 shooting.

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But Monday’s win was all about Jaylen Brown. That’s not to say he was the Celtics’ hero in the 103-102 finish. (For a complete recap of the Celtics' win, click here.) Brown led the Celtics with 13 points in the second half and hit an important shot down the stretch, but Smart scored six of Boston’s last eight points.

This was an important win for Brown because he was Boston’s second scoring option entering the game. He finished with a team-high 24 points, scored late, and was efficient from the field throughout (9-for-16). Though, he did struggle from three (2-for-7).

“Coach said, I think late in the second quarter, he said, ‘We need you to be aggressive,’” Brown said. “So I just started being aggressive more in the second quarter.

Brown has arguably been the steadiest Celtic this season. But, opponents don’t necessarily treat him as such.

Among Boston’s top-five scorers — Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Brown, Gordon Hayward and Smart, in that order — he’s second in field-goal percentage (47.4%). He trails Hayward (55.5%) by a significant margin, but Jayson Tatum (40.8%), who is third on the list, trails Brown by a similar amount.

Brown still has room to improve from three (36.5%), but he’s been more efficient than both Tatum (36%) and Smart (34.2%). Brown’s real problem is he’s leaving too many points at the free-throw line (73.2%), but that’s not the point.

Up until Monday, Brown was producing those numbers as the team’s third or fourth scoring option. Walker is coming off an All-NBA season, Tatum is perceived as the better scorer and, before fracturing his hand, Hayward looked the best he had in a Celtics uniform. Each has a reason to command a better defender than Brown.

But the Celtics didn’t have Hayward or Walker against the Kings. Thus, Brown was expected to take on a larger role — and delivered.

“Jaylen and Marcus Smart answered the bell late over and over as they were hitting those really tough shots,” Brad Stevens said.

Now, the Kings aren’t exactly the force of the Western Conference. Brown wasn’t being asked to take down the Clippers or Lakers. But Sacramento has a solid roster that gives the Celtics a hard time.

The defense had a heightened focus on Brown, yet he was still able to succeed. When the Celtics have their full foursome back, he should only create larger headaches for opposing defenses while their better defenders focus on Walker, Hayward and Tatum.

Monday’s game marked Brown’s seventh 20-point performance of 2019-20. He’s played in 13 games this season. Last year, Brown had 14 20-point games in 74 games.

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