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Boston Celtics need Game 2 version of Jaylen Brown if they’re going to win NBA title

Vincent Frank

For all of the good that he has done since the Boston Celtics made him a first-round pick back in 2016, Jaylen Brown has been somewhat of an enigma.

There’s been times over the past several seasons that it seemed the pairing of Brown and star forward Jayson Tatum was not going to work.

Now that the Celtics are five wins from the NBA Finals following a big victory over the Milwauee Bucks Tuesday evening, all seems to be good in Beantown.

Brown was absolutely brilliant in the first half of Game 2, scoring 25 points on 9-of-10 shooting. That included a 5-of-5 mark from distance en route to leading Boston to a 65-40 halftime advantage. It was the single-best half of his already awesome career. It also tied the Eastern Conference Semifinals series at one heading to Milwaukee for Game 3.

The attention quickly turned from criticism of Brown and his struggles in Game 1 to a new-found hope that he can be that No. 2 star to help lead Boston to an elusive NBA title.

It’s interesting to look at. The dynamics of Boston’s season have changed numerous times over the past several months.

From Marcus Smart calling out the star duo and a lack of defense to an active trade deadline and a dominating recent run, these Celtics have been a roller coaster. And in reality, a lot of it surrounds Mr. Brown.

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Jaylen Brown must show more consistency for Boston Celtics to win title

boston celtics jaylen brown
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s be clear here. Brown’s 30-point performance in Game 2 was a necessity for the Celtics. If they had fallen down 2-0 to the defending champs heading back to Milwaukee, that pretty much would have been a wrap.

With that said, these Celtics are not going to hoist the Larry O’Brien unless Brown continues to show some sort of consistency. After four consecutive 20-point games in Boston’s sweep of the Brooklyn Nets in Round 1, Brown struggled big time to open the conference semifinals.

Boston was actually plus-one in the 10 minutes Brown rested in Game 1. It’s a clear indication that he was not living up to his billing as the Celtics’ No. 2 guy behind superstar Jayson Tatum. After his 25-point first-half outing in Game 2 against Milwaukee, Brown shot 2-of-8 and scored a mere five points in the second half. Again, it’s all about consistency.

As for the Brown-Tatum pairing and its impact on the Celtics’ season, things have changed big time since the end of the 2021 calendar year.

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NBA: Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

“I mean, s–t, we all had a rough night. Nobody should hang their heads down. We in this together, right? All that matters is if you win or lose. I got all the faith in the world in JB.”

Tatum on Brown’s struggles after Game 1

It’s this type of trust that helped Brown overcome his Game 1 struggles to lead Boston in what was a must-win situation Tuesday night.

This wasn’t always the case between the two young forwards. As noted above, there’s been talk that the duo couldn’t head a championship contender. Perhaps, they had games that were too similar. Perhaps, neither one wanted to take on that 1B role. But this talk didn’t simply come out of nowhere.

It’s something Celtics guard Marcus Smart touched on early in the season when Boston was struggling big time and it looked like this duo might have to be broken up.

“Every team knows we’re trying to go to Jayson and Jaylen, and every team is programmed and studies to stop Jayson and Jaylen. I think everybody’s scouting report is to make those guys try to pass the ball. They don’t want to pass the ball.”

Marcus Smart after Celtics loss to the Chicago Bulls (November 1, 2021)

Fast forward seven months, and the Celtics have posted a 54-27 record since those comments. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum continue to click on all cylinders. As a veteran leader, Smart has done what he’s needed to do. That included earning the NBA Defensive Player of the Year honors this past regular season.

The backdrop here is a continued maturation process between Brown and Tatum. One realizes that he’s 1A while the other is learning how to handle his role as 1B.

Here’s a good example of this. Brown averaged 5.2 assists per in his first five playoff outings this season. He averaged a cool 2.0 assists throughout his first six NBA regular seasons. The willingness to pass up a good shot for a better shot is what has helped his game grow.

From Tatum’s perspective, it’s all about that bulldog mentality. This became clear during Boston’s four-game sweep of Kevin Durant and the Nets in the first round. Tatum averaged 27.8 points on 19 shot attempts per. Brown? He averaged 20.4 points on 17.2 shots per.

The goal now is for Jaylen Brown to be more consistent and effective shooting the ball. He will need to continue heeding Smart’s call to play more selfless basketball. If this does happen, Boston should be able to come out of the east and earn its first trip to the NBA Finals since all the way back in 2010.

If not, there’s going to be renewed talk about breaking up this star duo. That’s just the nature of the beast in Boston.