fb-pixel Skip to main content

Jaylen Brown used this win to gain confidence and reinvigorate himself

Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown delivered an emphatic dunk in the first half of Wednesday night’s win over the Bulls at TD Garden.Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

This game was tailor made for the slumping Celtics to regain their confidence and swagger, considering they were facing an inferior team in their first game at TD Garden in 13 days. So the performances in Wednesday’s win over the Bulls should be judged accordingly.

Except for one.

Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 18 points in their 111-82 win, a game in which they outscored the Bulls, 92-58, in the final three periods. Brown looked like the 2017-18 version in his 25 minutes. He was an aggressive shooter and penetrator. He looked confident with his 3-pointer, not reluctant, and he persisted at attacking the basket despite getting snuffed in the early going by Chicago rookie Wendell Carter Jr.


Brown’s ascension this season is a critical element to the Celtics’ success. He fills one of the more important roles on the team. He is the 3-and-D guy, the swingman who has to defend the opposing team’s top scorer and also spread the floor with his perimeter jumper.

Jaylen Brown sailed through the air to slam home 2 of his 18 points against the Bulls at TD Garden.Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

Jayson Tatum’s development has earned him the second offensive option — and sometimes the first — behind Kyrie Irving. Brown can become a more prolific scorer, but it’s more important for him to become more efficient, to use his entire skill set to impact the game.

He needs to get the key steal, chase down a rebound, sprint up the floor for the monster jam, or pull up for the 3-pointer. He is essentially the NBA version of a healthy Rob Gronkowski, who is asked to block, catch passes, and be Tom Brady’s security blanket near the end zone.

The responsibility placed on Brown has been heavy. He is no longer just the athletic wonder who runs the floor for alley-oops. He proved last season he is capable of so much more, so when this season began and he sputtered offensively and fouled incessantly on defense, it was a reason for concern.


All of his numbers have dipped from last season, including his scoring and player efficiency rating.

Never one to panic, Brown has taken a deep breath, reassured his teammates as well as himself that he’s prepared for this challenge, and maintained his fortitude.

“I’ve got to be able to knock down shots and just find some rhythm out there,” he said. “That’s what I tried to do tonight and I’m happy some went in. I just tried to be aggressive on both ends despite having a bad game or being in a slump, just coming out with the right mind-set. It’s not my style to really point fingers, I’ve got to play better, and happily some of the shots fell.”

After a 1-4 West Coast trip that included falling behind in each of the final three games by at least 20 points, the Celtics were reeling and perhaps pondering lineup changes. Coach Brad Stevens stuck with his conventional starting lineup, even though struggling Gordon Hayward told the Globe on Tuesday that he would be open to coming off the bench.

Hayward finished with 11 points, but had 10 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals in a second half that was played in mostly garbage time. Still, it was a sign of encouragement for Hayward.

Gordon Hayward (20), who had 11 points, drives to the basket against Chicago’s Antonio Blakeney.Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

It was the same for Brown, who was aggressive but selective at the same time. In last Friday’s loss at Utah, he hit a low point, missing 13 of his 17 shots and committing four fouls.


It was a foregone conclusion Brown would take the next major step forward after a successful second season. He worked out this summer with Tracy McGrady; he said he was mentally ready for the added responsibility. He fully understood that his game and reputation gained regard around the league after his postseason performance.

So his start to this season has been troubling, especially the missed layups or the hesitation in midair when attacking the basket, a sign of uncertainty about whether he can finish.

“I think the biggest thing is, for our whole team: Jaylen can get to the rim at any time,” Stevens said. “And I think the biggest thing is just continuing to not only finish with strength but also just continuing to make the right reads. And I think he’s improved in that. And our whole team can still get a lot better at that. I thought not Jaylen, but we had multiple other guys that missed quite a bit at the rim, and we need to be able to convert those as we move forward here. But it is good that at least we’re getting there a little bit more. That’s positive.”

The Celtics bench had a lot to celebrate in Wednesday night’s rout of the Bulls.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

It’s one game. The Bulls are among the worst teams in the Eastern Conference and essentially relented after the first quarter. So Brown is correct, whether the Celtics have truly improved and are making strides toward being elite will be determined Friday and Saturday when they play back-to-back home games against Toronto and Utah.


But it’s encouraging that they will enter this set with a reinvigorated and confident Brown, who has been searching for answers as to why he’s been so erratic. Perhaps it’s the game reminding him that it can never be taken for granted.

“I’ve been watching a lot of film over the past week and just taking my time,” he said. “Sometimes just being in a rush or being overaggressive, just taking my time and making the right reads. The ball will find you if you’re playing the game the right way. Just continue to do that on both sides, being dominant on defense and aggressive on offense and everything will take care of itself.”

Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.