By the time Jayson Tatum turned around to give teammate Jaylen Brown some dap for a pass to set up an easy layup, Aaron Nesmith’s inbounds pass was in his grasp. Tatum knocked the ball back to Brown, who pulled up for a 28-footer. Swish.
It was an enjoyable Friday night at TD Garden, devoid of stress, and blown leads and troublesome late-game execution. The Celtics seemingly left all of those issues on the West Coast, using an end-of-the-road-trip blowout win over the Sacramento Kings as a springboard to late-season dominance.
Brown and Tatum both played free and well in the 120-95 win over the Indiana Pacers, as the Celtics attempt to make one final run at the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
It’s been an interesting week for Brown, whose comments in The Ringer about his long-term future in Boston and his happiness, or lack thereof, in the city drew headlines and prompted discussion amongst Celtic faithful. Privately, Brown was unhappy with the story, feeling as if the release of the story was ill-timed and his comments may have been taken out of context.
Yet, on Monday, Brown will take his opinions to the White House. According to two NBA sources, Brown will be part of a group of Celtics who will speak to the Department of Justice about criminal justice reform. Teammate Malcolm Brogdon, who recently wrote an essay about the topic, will join Brown. The Celtics play the Washington Wizards on Tuesday.
As for his comments early this week, Brown chose not to explain his stance on the City of Boston, his quest to purchase property or starting a business. Brown, who scored 27 points with seven rebounds, wants to keep it basketball.
“I’ll expand at some point,” he said. “But right now, I’m just focused on my team and getting ready for the playoffs. Anything else I consider a distraction. Right now, that’s my main point of emphasis, getting my guys ready to go and at some point I’ll expand. But this is not the time right now.”
Brown has made headlines for non-basketball reasons because of his recent statements, which lends to the theory he has issues or isn’t content with his current situation in Boston. He attempted to dispel those concerns.
When asked if he was in a joyful mood, Brown said: “Winter is over. Spring is here. And it’s the beginning of Ramadan, so definitely being in better spirits. Trying to smile more, I guess. Just to come out and show your enthusiasm and love for the game.
“I get that a lot, I probably don’t smile enough, but it’s a lot of work we’ve got in front of us and it ain’t nothing funny.”
Brown’s serious expressions and monotone voice make it difficult to determine his thoughts and emotions. He’s expressive when he feels the situation requires, but he also understands that Celtics fans and, perhaps, even some members of the organization are trying to figure out whether he actually likes playing for the Celtics. He doesn’t embrace that notion.
“Not necessarily, I’m the type of person that likes to let people know how I’m feeling about certain things and situations,” he said. “And sometimes when I don’t speak, people speak for you. And sometimes things get taken out of context or translation when those things happen. I pick and choose my spots. Obviously, I’m not going to overcompensate myself and just speak on everything and let everybody know how I feel about everything because sometimes it ain’t everybody’s business.
“At the same time, communicate using my platform and try to be a leader in my community is what I pride myself on. In a sense, I do enjoy using my platform and speaking on certain topics.”
Brown has long sought to improve the American educational system and improve criminal justice reform and Monday will provide him an opportunity to speak on a global stage. What Brown doesn’t want those Boston fans to misunderstand is his love for basketball and desire to get the Celtics a championship.
He may not play with as much overt joy as perhaps Tatum, who blows kisses to the crowd after 3-pointers, but the game is fun for Jaylen Brown. Since his 35-point outburst at the All-Star Game, Brown has played with a freedom and passion; he has taken his game to the next level.
When Brown and Tatum are at their best, the Celtics are a championship level team. Brown knows that. Tatum knows that. Tatum again reiterated the importance of Brown to the organization’s short-term and long-term plan.
“Just sharing the obvious that we need him, and he’s a big part of this team, this franchise,” Tatum said. “Without him, we can’t reach our goals. You guys know that. The world knows that. The team knows that. We need him to be the best version of ourselves.”
Gary Washburn is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.