WASHINGTON — Jaylen Brown didn’t overreact to his opening night performance like others did. He simply insisted that his time would eventually arrive in one of the league’s most talented starting lineups.
After looking lost at times during the chaotic season opener at New York, Brown has spent the past two games showing his critics, and his organization, an improved arsenal and more patient approach.
Coming off a sparkling performance Friday against Miami, Brown continued his surge against the overwhelmed and uninterested Washington Wizards. He scored 27 of his 36 points in the first half, including seven of his eight 3-pointers, as the Celtics cruised to a 126-107 win at Capital One Arena.
Blitzing the Wizards with ball movement and 3-point shooting, the Celtics led by as many as 26 in the opening quarter and 37 overall. The starting lineup did not play in the fourth quarter.
Following a 4-for-11 shooting performance, including 0 for 4 from behind the 3-point line, against the Knicks, Brown is 24-for-46 shooting and 11 for 20 from beyond the arc over the past two games. There was concern about how Brown would fit into the Celtics’ retooled offense that includes offensive-minded center Kristaps Porzingis and quality shooter Jrue Holiday.
Against the Wizards, Brown was the beneficiary of the Celtics’ superior ball movement, and he scored easily in the flow of the offense. Tatum added 33 points in 28 minutes as Boston showed no signs of a letdown against a Washington team picked to return to the NBA Draft lottery.
“There’s going to be days where [Tatum] has it going, where [Porzingis] is going to have it, Jrue, [Derrick] White even guys off the bench,” Brown said. “The most important thing is we find ways to get wins. There’s going to be nights where it’s not my night and you have to have the maturity to understand that. I know there’s a lot of expectations on everybody but as long as we’re winning games, that’s what matters the most. Tonight was a night that I got hot, but it’s just one game.”
Prior to the game, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said he was interested to see how his club would respond against a lesser opponent. For the past few years, including Mazzulla’s first season, the Celtics struggled when they were heavily favored.
On Monday they punched first and then punched again. Brown drained his fourth 3-pointer in the game’s first 11 minutes and the Celtics were up 40-14. A Celtics-heavy crowd, as it usually is in the nation’s capital, cheered vigorously as their team pummeled the home Wizards with 58.3 percent shooting in the first half.
Brown concluded his first-half barrage with an off-balance 3-pointer that wowed the crowd for a 73-39 Boston lead. Mazzulla, still smarting about a 28-point blown lead last March against the Brooklyn Nets, implored his team to play with full concentration after halftime as it extended the lead to 108-75.
“Don’t leave it up to chance, come out and play the right way,” Tatum said. “Play as if we’re playing Miami at home for the season opener. That is the challenge of the NBA, trying to approach every game the same and it’s something we’ve got to talk about, having the right mind-set more often than not.”
The game began with the Celtics exploiting a major mismatch with the absence of Washington center Daniel Gafford, who sat out with a sprained ankle. Former Celtic Mike Muscala was the lone center listed on the Washington roster. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. opted for 6-foot-9-inch Deni Avdija at center and the Celtics responded by feeding the 7-3 Porzingis repeatedly in the post. He scored 10 points in the first eight minutes as the Celtics opened up a 28-11 lead.
The Celtics’ ability to score with ease in the paint forced the Wizards to double Porzingis, opening up the 3-point line.
“Our attack was relatively focused on throwing the ball down low,” Mazzulla said. “The guys did a good job playing connected basketball and finding those mismatches.”
Porzingis, who received a nice ovation when introduced after playing the past 1½ seasons with the Wizards, finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and a blocked shot in 24 minutes. His early production enabled Brown and Tatum to get open 3-point shots.
“I just wanted to take advantage of them not having a big out there and that’s what I did in the first quarter, just post up, post up,” he said. “Got some easy ones and that opened everything up for everybody else, also. If teams want to guard me that way then it’s gonna be a different kind of game. I’m just going to make adjustments and try to be as effective as I can in those situations.”
The only detractor from Monday’s victory was the performance of the reserves, who got pounded by their Washington counterparts in the final period. Payton Pritchard and Sam Hauser continue to struggle, going a combined 2 for 15 from the 3-point line Monday. They are 4 for 25 from three for the season.
Mazzulla was able to clear his bench in the final period and give a handful of players their first action of the season.