MILWAUKEE – Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have been two of the more talked-about Boston Celtics this season, and for good reason.
Brown has shown significant growth in his second NBA season, and Tatum plays with the kind of poise you seldom see in a rookie, let alone a 19-year-old one.
But the first half of Thursday’s game was one in which both players struggled to make shots. Rather than chalk it up to just one of those nights that all young players experience, they refused to embrace that narrative. Instead, they continued to plug away in the second half by playing good defense along with remaining confident that sooner or later, shots would start to go down.
And while Al Horford and Kyrie Irving had great games, Brown and Tatum’s ability to play their way through a rough night and still contribute, bodes well for both Brown and Tatum as well as the Celtics who pulled out a 96-89 win.
Horford has been among the more outspoken Celtics praising the two rookies.
But while most credit them for how they play offensively, Horford has been more impressed by what they bring to the game from a defensive standpoint.
“I keep ranting and raving about Tatum and Jaylen … the defense is what impresses me,” Horford said. “I’m looking at the film, Tatum, his activity, his length, he’s there in the right places all the time. And this is only like his fifth game in the NBA. I’m excited to see those two keep developing.”
And while they struggled in the first half offensively, both came alive with big shots in the second half as Boston pulled away for its third straight win.
After hitting a 3-pointer that cut Milwaukee’s lead to 61-57, Brown came back with another 3-ball which cut the Bucks’ lead to 69-68 with a minute to play in the third.
He would finish with a near double-double of nine points and nine rebounds.
And in the fourth, Tatum’s only basket was a driving finger roll lay-up that gave the Celtics an 84-72 advantage which turned out to be their largest lead of the night.
Tatum had 12 points, three assists and two rebounds.
With a roster filled with so many young players, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens understands the importance of them learning how to handle the ups and downs of a game, on the fly.
“It was good that a couple guys struggled from the field and had to make big ones late,” Stevens said. “That’s a growing experience. I feel like we’re making progress, but we still have a long way to go.”