Celtics

Blakely: Brown and Tatum emerging as rising stars in series against Bucks

Blakely: Brown and Tatum emerging as rising stars in series against Bucks

MILWAUKEE -- From the time Boston drafted Jayson Tatum last June, there was a certain connectivity with him and Jaylen Brown.

While their games differ, there are some common threads that from the outset bonded them in a way that stood out. 

Well, as we get deeper into the postseason, the Celtics' youthful 1-2 punch is beginning to stand out as two budding stars who are only getting better with time.

The C's return to Boston after a 104-102 Game 4 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday, which tied the best-of-seven series at two games apiece. Game 5 will be played at TD Garden on Tuesday and Game 6 back in Milwaukee on Thursday.

But in every game, win or lose, there are lessons to be learned. Especially for young players like Brown and Tatum. 

MORE CELTICS

For them, the takeaway is clear. 

There is a certain gear they have the ability to shift into that makes them pretty damn unstoppable. 

We saw that in the second half when for long stretches, they flip-flopped between being the best Celtic on the floor. 

Boston trailed 65-45 in the third quarter, then closed out the quarter with a 22-10 run with Brown and Tatum combining for 18 points during the Celtics spurt. 

The Celtics eventually took a brief lead in the fourth quarter on a Tatum jumper with less than a minute to play, but ultimately came up short following a tip-in by Giannis Antetokounmpo with 5.1 seconds to play that proved to be the game-winning basket.

No one is looking for silver linings this time of year. It’s all about wins and losses now. 

But that doesn’t take away from the need for growth, something Brown and Tatum --- who combined for 55 points (34 from Brown, 21 from Tatum) on Sunday -- are doing plenty of in this series. 

Boston would have loved to have had Kyrie Irving for this playoff series. But his absence has afforded all the members of this Celtics team to get some much-needed playoff seasoning that wouldn’t be nearly as abundant if Irving (recovering from knee procedure) were on the floor now.

There are a number of Celtics who have benefited from this, but few if any have had their learning curve accelerated as much as Brown and Tatum. Brown, in his second season, has scored 30 or more points in two of the four playoff games, the most recent being the 34-point effort on Sunday in Game 4.

And then there’s Tatum who put together one of the strongest rookie seasons ever by a Boston Celtic, a major accomplishment considering Boston’s storied past.

MORE CELTICS

He got it going in the second half on Sunday, scoring 18 of his 21 points. 

“I knew I had to be more aggressive,” Tatum said. “I had to pick up my play; just try to help out more.” 

And as this series continues to play out, both will continue to be looked upon for production which as we’ve seen, they are more than up to the challenge. 

But big numbers don’t mean much if they aren’t attached to a victory, something that eluded the Celtics in Milwaukee in Games 3 and 4. 

Boston will be back on familiar ground in Game 5 at the TD Garden, a game that the Celtics need in order to officially put the Bucks on the brink of playoff elimination. 

And make no mistake. The Bucks have their sights on trying to limit all the Celtics players, but they’ve seen enough to know that containing Brown and Tatum will be critical for Milwaukee to do what neither team has done thus far which is to win on the road. 

“They’re guys that have played with confidence not only throughout the season, but since the beginning of the season,” said Bucks interim head coach Joe Prunty. “They’re definitely people we have accounted for. As you get into a series, you’re always talking about what guy’s tendencies are. These two have played very well and we have to anticipate that.”

Prunty’s comments speak to what the Brown-Tatum tandem has done in this series. 

But their play serves as a snapshot of two young stars who, like the Celtics franchise, seem to be getting better with time. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: How will C's respond to blowout Game 3 loss?

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: How will C's respond to blowout Game 3 loss?

CLEVELAND – This season has been one lesson learned after another for the Boston Celtics, a team that has taken those teachings and transformed them into better play moving forward. 

It is a trend the Celtics hope to continue tonight as they try and bounce back from a 116-86 Game 3 thrashing at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers who now trail Boston 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. 

“All season I feel like we've been learning,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “We've been put in different positions. And now we're in a position that we need to bounce back, and (tonight) we have a good opportunity.”

Boston doesn’t have a ton of experience this season when it comes to suffering double-digit losses. 

In fact, the Celtics only suffered nine losses by 10 or more points this season. 

But here’s the thing: 

You hear players on this team talk all the time about putting the last game quickly behind them, win or lose. 

Well, that has certainly been the case when they have suffered losses by 10 or more points, evident by them posting an impressive 8-1 regular season record in the games that followed double-digit defeats. 

So if the Celtics seem extremely calm right now, that’s why.

“Everybody loses games,” said Boston’s Jayson Tatum. “The NBA is such a quick turnaround that you really can't be down, especially in the playoffs.”

The Celtics will be fine in terms of their approach mentally to Game 4. The bigger issue is doing a better job of executing at both ends of the floor and doing so without being thrown off their rhythm by the crowd noise that’s pumped into the Quicken Loans Arena that players acknowledged made communicating tougher than usual in Game 3.

“It's going to be loud. But that can't be an excuse for us,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “The young guys know that. It's alright, it's one game. The one thing about this sport, you get a chance to go out there and do it again, so it's a blessing to have that opportunity.”

And for the Celtics, tonight’s game offers more than just a chance to exact some payback for a dismal Game 3 performance. It also moves them one step closer towards the NBA Final.

But make no mistake about it. 

The sting of how thoroughly the Celtics were outplayed is indeed on the minds of some players heading into tonight’s game. 

“I use it as fuel because I thought it was embarrassing,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “I thought we came out, the way I played, the way I performed, how not aggressive I was in the first half, I look at that as fuel to come out in Game 3 and be excited about it and be ready to play and ready to fight.

Brown added, “We can't look at the last game and get down on ourselves or

think we're out of the series because we lost one game. That's what the world thinks, that's what the world wants us to think, so we're going to come out and play some basketball (tonight), regardless of what anybody got to say.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

David Ortiz once came through in the clutch for Al Horford's wedding

David Ortiz once came through in the clutch for Al Horford's wedding

David Ortiz doesn't only come through in the clutch when he's in the batter's box.

He also delivers in clutch situations off the field. Take Al Horford's wedding for example. The Celtics big man had a last-minute wedding in the Dominican Republic and desperately needed a car to pick up his wife-to-be. Big Papi saved the day, sending Horford his Phantom and a driver. He even let them keep the car for a couple of days.

Horford told the story to the NBCS Camera Guys, who you should definitely follow on Twitter if you haven't already. . .

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE