Jaylen Brown proves quick study by learning to finish at rim

Jaylen Brown proves quick study by learning to finish at rim

BOSTON – In the past couple of weeks, we have seen Jaylen Brown’s athleticism provide a few, ‘how-the-hell-did-he-do-that?' moments for the Boston Celtics.

First there was the acrobatic lob against the Los Angeles Lakers in which he caught it with his left hand and, while still in the air, switched it to his right and drew contact before finishing the play off with the lay-up. And against the Chicago Bulls in transition, he dribbled behind his back, stopped to avoid a charge while tossing up the ball for what became an improbable lay-up.

Those plays highlight one of the many changes for the better that we have seen since the all-star break in Brown’s game. While he has been praised often for the strides he has made defensively, the 20-year-old rookie has also progressed in his ability to finish at the rim. It became apparent early on that Brown, selected by Boston with the No. 3 pick in last June’s NBA draft, had the ability to get to the paint quickly.

But finishing around the rim?

That was very much a work in progress. 

“I’ve never played against guys as athletic or as good,” Brown said. “That’s been the transition.”

And as we’ve seen with Brown, he has been a quick study when it comes to making adjustments to better his play and in doing so, help the Celtics in their quest to finish out the regular season playing well going into the playoffs. 

Experience has been a great teacher for Brown. The same can be said for his teammates.

“I study our guys like I.T. (Isaiah Thomas), how they turn corners and use their body to shield off and things like that,” Brown said. “I’ve watched more than I talked to guys, but I definitely learned a lot from our veterans and our young guys, too; how to get to the basket, how to create space.”

And the numbers clearly show Brown’s progress at getting to the paint and finishing at a higher rate. This season, Brown is shooting 58.8 percent on shot attempts within five feet of the rim. Since the all-star break, that number is up to 72.2 percent.

Brown’s teammates have noticed his improvement, as has head coach Brad Stevens.

“He’s had some great spurts, there’s no question,” Stevens said. “He’s played really well; he's probably ahead of where I thought he would be.”

But the NBA is like a marathon, with Brown not even a mile into this thing.

“He’s going to have to keep doing it,” Stevens said. “That’s the challenge you get further along into this.”

Said Thomas: “Things are slowing down for him. Earlier in the season he was going so fast and out of control. But now he’s slowing down. He’s very strong and athletic. Once he gets a step on somebody, more than likely he’s going to score. He’s letting the game come to him. He’s going to be special. He’s letting the game come to him.”

As much as Brown’s improvement has been fueled by his ability, just as significant a factor has been him getting an opportunity which is far from a given for any player coming into the NBA regardless of how high a draft pick they were.

“A lot of those guys who the game hasn’t slowed down for years, they don’t get the chance or if they do, it’s two or three minutes here and there and that’s tough for a young guy,” Thomas said. “He’s getting valuable minutes on a playoff team. He’s taking advantage of it. He’s learning each and every game, not just practice.”

Rozier gets a big test tonight against Thunder

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Rozier gets a big test tonight against Thunder

BOSTON -- Terry Rozier has stepped up his game this season. There’s no disputing that point. 
And the Celtics have rewarded him with increased playing time, which he has proven he deserves. 
While he has made the most of his opportunity with an increased role due to injuries, at some point Rozier’s minutes should go back to being 20 or so per game. 
It’s amazing how far Rozier has come in such a short period of time, from a first-round pick many questioned as being a reach on Boston’s part, to an integral part of the team’s quest towards Banner 18.
And it is games like tonight’s against the Oklahoma City Thunder that will put the experience gained by Rozier as a major contributor, to the ultimate test when he faces off against reigning league MVP Russell Westbrook.
No one expects Rozier to put up Westbrook-like numbers . . . but would anyone be shocked if he did?
Remember, Rozier’s first NBA start came this season and he racked up his first career triple-double. The next game out, he dropped a career-high 31 points. 
But as we get deeper into the season, he’s no longer viewed as a backup or a role player, They see him as a player that has to be accounted for, regardless of whether he’s starting or coming off the bench. 
“There’s a lot of teams in this league you could easily see him starting for,” a league executive told NBC Sports Boston via text. “He’s not Kyrie [Irving] obviously, and he’s a different kind of player than Marcus [Smart], but he can play. If teams didn’t know it before, they know it now.”
Rozier may not be a secret anymore, but here are five under-the-radar story lines to keep an eye on tonight as the Celtics go for the season sweep against the Oklahoma City Thunder. 


If the Celts expect to win tonight, they better get it done in four quarters of play. Because overtime has been a good time for the Thunder. They come into tonight’s game with a 3-0 record in overtime this season. They are one of eight teams with an unblemished overtime record, and no other team in the league this season has as more wins (3) in overtime without a single defeat. 


The NBA hit Marcus Morris up for $15,000 following “verbal abuse of a game official” at the end of Boston’s 108-89 loss at New Orleans.  Morris will be lighter in the wallet, obviously. But it also might get him even more fired up tonight which could lead to him lighting up the Thunder. 


Scoring around the basket has not been a strength of the Celtics, but with key players on the perimeter hurt, Boston has to generate points in other ways. Doing so against the Thunder, a team that has allowed 43.1 points in the paint per game --10th-fewest allowed in the league this season -- will be a challenge.


At some point tonight, Boston will be challenged to get back on defense and not allow Russell Westbrook to score on the break. The Celtics have been one of the league’s better transition defense teams in allowing 10.2 fast-break points, which is the fourth-fewest allowed per game this season. Meanwhile, the Thunder average 14.1 fast-break points, which ranks third in the league. 


The Celtic players talk all the time about how great the TD Garden crowd can be. But at the end of games lately, they haven’t let them much to cheer about. The C's come into tonight’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder with losses in five of their last seven home games with the lone wins coming over Memphis and Charlotte – two teams currently out of playoff seeding. Boston’s last home win over a team that’s currently in the top 8 was a 97-96 win over Portland on Feb. 4, a game in which Al Horford hit a game-winning, fadeaway jumper as time expired.


Report: Kyrie Irving may need screws removed from knee

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Report: Kyrie Irving may need screws removed from knee

BOSTON — Kyrie Irving is reportedly going to get a second opinion on his sore left knee which may result in him having season-ending surgery.

98.5 The Sports Hub’s Tony Massarotti reported on Tuesday that Irving will get a second opinion as early as Wednesday.

Irving suffered a fractured left knee cap during the 2015 NBA Finals.

He underwent surgery that sidelined him for the rest of the playoffs.

The surgical procedure performed on his knee involved the insertion of screws to aid the stabilization of the  kneecap.

The Celtics have already been ravaged by injuries this season. They lost Gordon Hayward just five minutes into the season due to a left ankle injury. Daniel Theis is out for the season with a torn meniscus injury to his left knee. Marcus Smart recently had right thumb surgery that will keep him out for the rest of the regular season, with there being a chance he will return at some point for the playoffs. And Jaylen Brown suffered a concussion that has him sidelined, as well.