Jaylen Brown steps up in crunch time

Jaylen Brown steps up in crunch time

WASHINGTON – For most of this season, Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum have Boston’s 1-2 scoring punch down the stretch.

But as we saw in the 110-104 overtime win against Washington on Thursday night, Jaylen Brown can deliver in the clutch as well.

After winning a jump ball with less than two minutes to play, seconds later Brown drained a corner 3-pointer that proved to be the dagger that the Wizards were not able to overcome.

“The shot clock was going down,” Brown recalled. “I took my time and took a shot that I’ve been working on for a while now. It shows itself in the game.”

Indeed, the work that Brown put in this summer has manifested itself into a strong sophomore campaign that has been one of the primary reasons why the Celtics (40-16) have been riding high this season.

Brown has more than doubled his scoring average (14.2 this season, was 6.6 as a rookie last season) while significantly increasing the level of responsibility he has on defense.

In Boston’s win over Washington, Brown spent a significant amount of time defending Bradley Beal, utilizing his length to contribute to a rough night for Beal who had 18 points but did so on 7-for-27 shooting.

Here are five takeaways from the 110-104 overtime win against the Washington Wizards:

Boston found success with a big boy lineup that included four players who were 6-7 or taller, a unit that helped swing the game’s momentum slightly towards Boston in the second quarter, Stevens turned to the five-man unit of Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris, Daniel Theis and Greg Monroe in the second half and they had yet another solid stint together.

Although Greg Monroe hadn’t played in a game since Jan. 29 prior to Thursday night, you could tell that he had made a point of working on his conditioning to stay game-ready. In his Celtics debut, he played 20 minutes while scoring five points to go along with six rebounds, two assists and a steal.

The pace that he played with on Thursday night was much, much better than what we saw at Toronto earlier this week. Irving did a better job of picking his spots when to attack the Wizards. And the end result was a game-high 28 points on 9-for-19 shooting to go with six rebounds and six assists.

The Celtics spent more time working the ball inside the paint as well as attacking off the dribble, resulting in more trips to the free throw line than usual. For the game, Boston was 23-for-34 from the free throw line. The idea that they shot just 67.6 percent from the line is disappointing. But the fact that they went there so frequently compared to the Wizards (16-for-20), was a definite positive for the Celtics.

Boston’s second unit went four deep on Thursday, with Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris, Daniel Theis and Greg Monroe. And to their credit, they each had a hand in Boston getting a hard-earned road win which included them collectively outscoring Washington’s backups 39-26.


Horford can cross skills challenge off his bucket list

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Horford can cross skills challenge off his bucket list

LOS ANGELES – After making a near-perfect pass during the early stages of the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Al Horford was feeling good about his chances of winning.

But near the end, the final stage – knocking down a 3-pointer – proved to be Horford’s undoing as Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid eliminated Horford in the first round after Horford missed three consecutive three-pointers.

“It happens. It was fun,” Horford said.

Embiid, who was eliminated in the next round by Chicago’s Lauri Markkanen, said he was nervous before the event.

“I don’t know why. My heart was beating so fast,” Embiid told reporters. “I have no idea. But I thought it was fun.”

Although Horford has been a part of all-star weekend four times prior to tonight, this was the first time he participated in the Skills Challenge.

“It’s different. I normally come as a fan,” he said. “This time it was a little different, just getting your mind set and come out here and compete and win. It’s good to be a part of it. Now I can just scratch that off.”

When I asked him about tips or advice from teammates, he said the only thing they told him was he “had to win it.”

“I let them down so I have to make it up in the season,” said Horford, grinning.

Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie wound up winning the event, over Markkanen.


The Kyrie brand continues to expand

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The Kyrie brand continues to expand

LOS ANGELES – With Tinseltown as the backdrop, Kyrie Irving’s acting debut in the film, "Uncle Drew the Movie," will officially hit movie theaters this summer.

A five-time All-star and NBA champion, Irving is one of the few NBA players with a signature shoe deal.

And that deal, along with him venturing into the film game, speaks to the ever-expansion of the Irving brand. During Saturday’s media scrum, a time when the sports journalism world chimes in with a wide array of questions for the best players on the planet, some of the first ones asked were in regards to his upcoming movie.

They came from former Celtic Nate Robinson, who is in the movie as well.

That said, it still doesn’t diminish the fact that Irving is setting himself up to be more than just a talented basketball player.

“It comes with a lot of sacrifice, privacy,” Irving said before adding, “but you get a chance to put your creative influence and inspiration on things that have helped you develop as a person. You get to share that with the world. That’s pretty awesome. And you get to share it through art, through my game, through different avenues of sponsorship and you’re able to get that message through to people. That’s pretty awesome. I try to take full advantage of that.”

Part of Irving’s all-star weekend was spending time with the press to speak specifically about his upcoming movie.

Irving also made public appearances for corporate partners such as Mountain Dew.

There was a time not that long ago when the idea of an athlete having interests outside of basketball were frowned upon.

But Irving has been moving to a different beat for as long as he has been playing the game of basketball.

And that isn’t going to change anytime soon.

“Sometimes because of the way we’re put on this platform, people have opinions on the way that we should be, how we should act, things that we should be involved with,” Irving said. “The important thing that get’s glazed over is that we’re human beings. So, it’s pretty tough finding that balance.

Irving added, "For me, it’s just about respect all people. That’s something I always try to hammer home, something I was taught as a kid. It’s crazy. You get slack for saying stuff about certain things and feeling strongly, and if you don’t say enough you get the bad end of that as well. If you feel confident and you’re knowledgeable on a lot of things and you feel strongly about it, you should go for it. Everyone has a voice and they should be respected.”