With 11:15 to go in the fourth quarter — and the game very much still in question — Jaylen Brown nailed a turnaround fadeaway.
Then, he hit a pull-up three.
Then, he drove downhill for a layup.
Moments later, he sunk yet another three-pointer. And after that? He nailed another.
Just like that, in a mere matter of minutes, a six-point, back-and-forth ball game turned into an absolute blowout.
Jaylen Brown has taken over this ball game and this place is going nuts. On Kids Day no less!
He has outscored the Magic 16-12 single-handedly in this quarter so far. pic.twitter.com/VjcqrvdmGD
— Noa Dalzell (@NoaDalzellNBA) December 17, 2023
Brown ended up clocking 17 fourth-quarter points, almost single handedly burying the Orlando Magic for the Celtics’ 20th win of the season. In the final period, he shot 6-8 from the field, including 3 of 4 from three, while also picking up two assists. TD Garden was bursting at the seams.
Jaylen Brown knows he’s not always going to be the team’s top scorer – but that’s okay. He’s embraced a changing role that often calls on him to be a playmaker.
“In this team, it’s a lot clearer that I don’t need to score 30 points a game,” Brown said. “That would be great, but we’ve got a lot of guys that can put the ball in the cup, that are playing well. So making sure I make the right plays, the right reads, it’s helped me see the game a lot differently than before, when I’ve been asked to score the ball.”
Jayson Tatum praised Brown for his willingness to sacrifice his scoring and usage for the betterment of the team. Brown averaged 26.6 points on 20.6 shots last season; this year that number is down to 21.9 points on 18.3 shot attempts.
“We all talk about sacrificing,” Tatum said. “It’s not easy — he was Second Team All NBA last year, averaged 27 points. To kind of take a step back in points, and things like that, usage, or whatever, just to do all of that so that we can have a better chance to win.”
Jayson Tatum praises Jaylen Brown’s willingness to sacrifice usage, points for the team’s benefit.
“It’s not easy. He was Second Team All NBA.” pic.twitter.com/f7zs9xdME8
— Noa Dalzell (@NoaDalzellNBA) December 17, 2023
Brown has remained a dominant first quarter player; he leads the team with 7.3 points per game in the opening period. But last night, he was also the team’s closer, hitting a barrage of three-pointers to put away a young Magic team that has been near the top of the Eastern Conference for the entire season.
“I’m just a basketball player,” Brown said. “I’m a ‘do whatever our team needs’ kind of guy – first quarter, fourth quarter, don’t matter. I just take advantage of the opportunities that I get, make the right reads, and I get in a rhythm at any point in the game, I can just add it to success.”
Brown has reiterated on numerous occasions that defense remains a priority for him; after Friday night’s win against the Magic, he joked he would have to run his own First Team All Defense campaign.
“All of our guys are striving to be All Defense type of guys,” Brown said. “I want to be the head of that snake. I want to continue to push myself, but also push my teammates, playing with a pace.”
Brown has averaged 24.1 points per game on 53.6% shooting over his last seven games – and he credits his teammates and the coaching staff for trusting him, and going back to him, even when he’s messed up.
“A lot of times, you’ve been in that position before, you make a mistake, they might not go back to you,” Brown said. “Now, I think I’ve been able to earn the trust of my teammates and my coaching staff that I made the right play enough times this year, that if I make a mistake, they’ll still put the ball back in my hand.”
After signing the largest contract in the NBA in July, he was subject to significant scrutiny after some shooting struggles earlier in the year; he shot 43.8% from the field over the first 7 games of the season. But, he pushed through that stretch and has continued to improve his play as the year has gone on.
“He does a good job of staying even-keel regardless,” Joe Mazzulla said after the game. “That’s just kind of who he is. He has a great way about him from a mindset standpoint, and he works really, really hard. It just says a lot about who he is, and that’s a reflection of the locker room. All of them are kind of like that.”
Some nights, like last night, Brown will still be the guy, regardless of how much All Star talent is on the floor. It certainly helps when his three-point shot is falling. He’s shot 32.7% from three this season, the worst numbers of his career.
“I feel like if I hit one or two, I can get it going – I’m just that type of player. My three ball hasn’t been dropping as much as I would have liked to this year, so it was good to see some of those threes go down.”
But even when it’s not falling, he’s doing all the little things to help the team win.
“I’ve played multiple positions and multiple roles,” Brown said. “In this team, I’ve been more of a playmaker in a sense, not just as passing, but screening, cutting, less of a scorer, just being a basketball player.”
His willingness to accept that role is part of what has made the Celtics so successful this year.
“That’s the benefit of being on a really talented team like we are,” Tatum said. “Like Joe says, on any given night, it’s going to be a different one or two guys. It’s a product of why we are 20-5. That’s the luxury that we have. We have so many talented guys that can get it going on any given night.”
And last night, that guy was unquestionably Jaylen brown.