BOSTON – The NBA is an emotional game, but the feelings Jaylen Brown was working through on the eve of Thursday’s game against Golden State, are the kind you don’t wish anyone with the death of his best friend less than 24 hours before Thursday night’s tip-off.
Brown channeled his pain into a performance that was absolutely vital to Boston pulling off the biggest upset for them this season, a 92-88 win over the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
He led the Celtics with a team-high 22 points in the win which extended the Celtics’ winning streak to 14 straight.
But he was in no mood to celebrate afterwards.
CELTICS 92, WARRIORS 88
“My best friend (Trevin Steede) passed last night,” Brown said after the game. “It was tough to accept it. Everybody was kind of in shock. I knew coming in today, he would want me to play.
Brown paused, and added, “It’s hard to get my thoughts together. After talking to his mom and family, they inspired me to come out. I wasn’t in any shape to come out. I didn’t want to leave my room. They inspired me to come out and play and I came out and played in his spirit today.”
Indeed, Brown played with the kind of purpose that made it clear that this wasn’t just another game.
Sure, Golden State was the defending champs but Brown’s temperament seemed to be on a level higher, much higher, than what you would come to expect from a highly-anticipated matchup.
His teammates as well as the coaching staff were aware of what Brown was dealing with, and were prepared for him to not play if he decided that was the best thing for him.
After the game, Kyrie Irving gave the game ball to Brown.
“I knew from start of the game, I gave him some great words that were given to me,” Irving said. “I’ve lost individuals in my life. It’s never a good thing when someone is going through it. You do your best to encourage them, to console them. But at the end of the day, it’s about the strength within themselves and he showed a lot of that tonight.”
Irving added, “to be able to go out and perform the way he did, I knew exactly who the game ball was going to.”
Dealing with this kind of adversity unfortunately is nothing new to the Boston Celtics.
On the eve of the playoffs last season, ex-Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas’ younger sister Chyna Thomas died in a car accident.
Just as they rallied around Thomas at that time, the Celtics have done the same for Brown.
“It’s been a tough 24 hours for him as you call can imagine,” said coach Brad Stevens. “Very similar meetings and talking points I had with Isaiah (Thomas) last year, today. Like Isaiah used it as a distraction, he (Brown) went out there and played and was really, really good.”