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Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown carrying a heavy load, but Celtics know they’ll need to find balance

Jaylen Brown (left) and Jayson Tatum haven't spent much time on the bench this season.Maddie Meyer/Getty

It is a long, grueling season, and the Celtics will look for opportunities to rest their stars whenever they can. But over the first two weeks, the workload put on the shoulders of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown has been substantial.

Tatum entered Sunday’s 112-94 win over the Wizards averaging 38.2 minutes per game and Brown was averaging 37.6, ranking third and sixth in the NBA, respectively. These numbers were skewed slightly by Friday’s overtime loss against the Cavaliers. And unlike the second half of last season, when the Celtics walloped teams so excessively that the top players could often watch from the bench, these early games generally have been close.


But coach Joe Mazzulla hinted that he will look to find a balance over the course of the season.

“I think the season is so long you do the best you can to manage it,” Mazzulla said. “But at the same time, you do the best you can to win the game. So I think there will be opportunities for both. There’s opportunities for when you have to do what you do to win, and I think there’s opportunities to manage them as well. So we just have to be balanced in that.”

One such opportunity came Sunday: Brown was only on the floor for 30 minutes and Tatum just 27.

Tatum tough to stop

Playing time aside, Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said he’s been impressed by how the two Celtics stars are carrying the NBA’s fourth-ranked offense.

“It really starts with Tatum and Brown,” Unseld Jr. said. “Those two get the lion’s share of the shots and they’re combining for close to 60 points. So Tatum right now is fifth in the league in scoring. So he’s going to get shots and they’re going to look to feature him. How do you take him out of his rhythm and keep him from getting comfortable early? He’s going to make some tough ones. You have to live with that. But make him earn it.


“I think showing him different looks, being physical. You’ve got to defend him without fouling. But you cannot allow him to play with ease and comfort and allow him to play in space. Otherwise, he’ll pick you apart.”

Defense needs work

The Celtics entered Sunday with the NBA’s 26th-ranked defense, a major fall after having the top-ranked unit last season. Guard Malcolm Brogdon said he thinks the strong offense has actually had a negative effect on the defense.

“It should be the other way around,” Brogdon said. “We should be defending. That should be our priority every night. I think we have moments where we’re great defensively, and then I think that we have moments where we have lapses and breakdowns on and off the ball, whether we’re switching, whether we’re not rebounding, finishing plays, getting contested shots. I think we’re having too many breakdowns right now and it’s an issue of consistency.”

In the victory Sunday, the Celtics held an opponent under 100 points for the first time this season.

Brogdon cleared for duty

Brogdon, who had been listed on the injury report as questionable with lower back soreness, was cleared to play and logged 23 points in 23 minutes … Forward Grant Williams gathered 10 points in 25 minutes in his return following a one-game suspension for making contact with an official during Boston’s loss to the Bulls on Monday.


Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at Follow him @adamhimmelsbach.