BOSTON – There is no confusion as to the pecking order within the Boston Celtics hierarchy on the floor.
Kyrie Irving and Al Horford are at the front of the line.
The Celtics know this, as do every team they face.
But for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, that knowledge has been invaluable to their play which has been far greater and more consistent than anyone anticipated.
And that play was one of the main reasons why the Celtics had no problem in defeating the New York Knicks, 110-89, on Tuesday night.
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Brown, who celebrated his 21st birthday with a Celtics victory on Tuesday, led all scorers with 23 points. And Tatum, whose play is nothing like what you would expect from a 19-year-old, was right behind Brown with 22 points.
They became the first Celtics tandem ever to each score at least 20 points in the same game, and be 21 years old or younger at that time.
“We’re going to keep getting better and comfortable with each other as time goes on,” Tatum said.
Brown said his strong game against the Knicks was fueled in large part by the attention Horford and Irving were drawing.
“I’ve got to make plays when they’re taking up a lot of that attention,” Brown said. “So just come out, be aggressive.”
And he was quick to add that Tatum’s on board with that approach as well.
“Me and Jayson … got to make teams guard us,” Brown said. “Make it easier for Al and Kyrie.”
While that may be the intent, what’s starting to happen is Brown and Tatum are actually making things easier for Horford and Irving.
“They’re taking big strides every single day in practice,” Irving said of Brown and Tatum. “It’s still early but I give them credit. They’re coming out ready to play. They’re demanding a lot out of themselves which I appreciate. It makes my job easier to go out there and do what I do.”
And while a lot of attention has been paid to their play from the prism of them being young players, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens doesn’t look at them that way.
“I’m sure I’ll say it down the road or whenever I’m asked,” Stevens said, “but they are young guys. But to us, with the situation we’re in, they’re guys. Like, we need them to be guys. We’re in a situation right now where we’re going to expect a lot out of those guys and we need them to be great, we need them to be able to respond to adversity, and we need to be able to respond to pats on the back just the same. We have high expectations for them; they should have high expectations for themselves, and they’re getting a great opportunity. So, we need them to continue to be good, and there’s a lot of fun in that, I think.”
Both Brown and Tatum have not shied away from embracing the thought of being an elite player despite being among the youngest players on the roster.
This isn’t about youth being served but rather, youth in the form of Brown and Tatum serving anyone not donning the Green and White.
And while this has been embraced by all the Celtics, Irving has taken particular joy in seeing how quickly the youthful duo has been able to make a major impact on the team.
“On an individual level, they are ahead of the game in terms of the guys at their position, first-year, second-year players,” Irving said. “They’re relishing it and I’m really proud of them. The difference between good and great is how consistent you are in this league. So, that’s just the thing that I’m going to continue to echo with guys. Be themselves and continue to get better."