It is reaching a point where these types of performances from Jaylen Brown are no big deal.
He is carrying the Celtics through their COVID-19-caused issues as he makes a strong bid for his first All-Star appearance and has put himself in the discussion as one of the league’s top 10 players.
His 33-point outing Sunday against the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden was done in merely 19 minutes. Brown is making the game look effortless and it’s a byproduct of the work he’s put in over the past few years, especially on his midrange game.
The Celtics’ 141-103 win snapped a three-game losing streak and was Boston’s first win since Jan. 15. And it served as a celebration of sorts for Brown, who made 13 of his 20 shots, including three 3-pointers and then left the game for good with three minutes left in the third period.
Two nights prior in Philadelphia, Brown tied his career high with 42 points as he tried in vain to single-handedly lead the Celtics to victory.
Brown has been the Celtics’ MVP this season, his development into a prolific scorer, one of the team’s biggest bright spots in what has been a bumpy road so far.
And with Jayson Tatum, who sat behind the Celtics’ bench Sunday, expected to return to the lineup after a five-game absence, Boston is getting closer and closer to looking like a finished product.
“He’s constantly working to improve; he doesn’t play passive and I think his skill, his improvement and his aggressiveness is a good combination,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “He’s been amazing scoring the ball. It looked like we would be missing all those guys [Brown, Tatum, and Kemba Walker] for a few days and he came back and has been really, really good, a guy that we can go to in every which way and sometimes the option can be defended well and he can still make a play and get a basket.
“He’s constantly improved and again he’s never lost his aggressiveness.”
The Celtics jumped on the overwhelmed Cavaliers early and recorded their easiest win of the season. An encouraging sign for Boston is the return of Walker, who scored 21 points in just 24 minutes with 4 assists and 5 rebounds. Walker’s presence along with Tatum and Brown will give the Celtics are formidable trio and with each having the skills to carry the offense in spurts. Brown’s numbers have spiked in every offensive category compared with last season, his improvement has ensured the Celtics are perhaps a more efficient team than last season.
“Obviously, I’m extremely grateful to be in that position,” he said. “I’ve looked forward to the challenge, just trying to do my best with what I got.”
Brown’s a man of few words when it comes to discussing his game because he feels he’s capable of so much more. He doesn’t particularly like hearing that he was a bull in a China shop as a younger player, getting by on his athleticism but falling into the traps of the defense by driving too deep into the paint because he didn’t trust his ability to hit the pull-up jumper.
That is no longer an issue. Brown has a near-flawless midrange game, comfortable with stopping on a dime and draining the 16-footer. Brown is a thinking man who has gradually added layers to his game and allowed his athleticism to serve as a his biggest asset while his skill set has caught up with that athletic prowess, turning him into a complete offensive package.
“The way that he’s scoring, his patience, his poise,” guard Marcus Smart said of Brown’s improvement. “His rookie year, that Jaylen Brown just put his head down and not even understand where he’s going. But he works hard and you’ve got to give him credit. That’s why he’s one of the best young players in this game, doing what he’s doing for this team. I’m just very, very proud of him.”
Stevens has been the beneficiary.
“We’ve had other guys play well throughout the year, and I’ve said many times I wasn’t sure we were as good as our record early in the year,” Stevens said. “But we have had some encouraging moments and Jaylen is obviously a huge bright spot.”
With his performance Sunday, Brown had jumped to sixth in the NBA in scoring with Tatum eighth. The most encouraging aspect of this season so far is the development of both and their ability to play together and complement each other. But in this stretch without Tatum, Brown has proven capable of consistent greatness and considering his work ethic and relentlessness, his ascension will only continue.