Celtics

Brown looks to make adjustments after Cavs limit him in Game 3

Brown looks to make adjustments after Cavs limit him in Game 3

CLEVELAND – The first two games of the Eastern Conference finals between Boston and Cleveland, the Cavs' defense was hell-bent on trying to limit Jayson Tatum which as it turned out, paved the way for big games from Jaylen Brown. 

Well, the Cavs ditched the usual plan which was to pay added attention to Tatum, and instead do all they could to limit Brown in the first quarter. 

It worked. 

Brown, who has done some of his best work in this series in the first quarter, was being paid significantly more attention than Games 1 and 2 at the outset of Game 3 which proved to be an important key to Cleveland’s 116-86 win. 

Brown, who was also in foul trouble early and often in Game 3, tallied just 10 points on 3-for-8 shooting along with turning the ball over three times which tied Marcus Smart for the team lead.

What stood out about Brown’s first quarter stat line was how he was scoreless on one missed shot from the field in the first.

Brown acknowledged after the game how the Cavaliers defended him very differently than they had in the previous two games. 

“I just don’t think they let me catch the ball,” Brown said. “They were denying me. They didn’t want me to get the ball and when I did get it, it wasn’t in the position I was comfortable in.” 

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue acknowledged after the win that part of the game plan was to pay closer attention to Brown who had been averaging 13.5 points scored in the first quarter. 

“We changed a couple things up,” Lue acknowledged. “We know Jaylen is a first-quarter player. He plays good throughout the game, but he really sets the tone early in that first quarter. So we wanted to do a good job on him. I thought LeBron (James) did a good job of closing out to him, making him put it on the floor, cutting him off and making him play in a crowd. It was good for us to slow him down that first quarter because he’s been really good in Boston.” 

There’s no question Brown was disappointed with the loss. But he’s far from deterred in achieving his primary goal here in Cleveland – come away with at least one win.

“I got to go back and look at it (Game 3),” Brown said and then added, “make adjustments and come back and try to get one here.”

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Danny Ainge has established a good track record of getting the best player available

Danny Ainge has established a good track record of getting the best player available

The last couple of years have answered the question of whether Danny Ainge can draft. When making his first choice in 2016 and 2017, he was higher on his guy than most. In both cases, he was right. 

No major publication considered Jayson Tatum the best player last year; Ainge would have taken him No. 1 but was able to trade down because the Sixers were trading up for Markelle Fultz and the Lakers for some reason wanted to sign up for the Lonzo Ball life.

Jaylen Brown at No. 3 in 2016? You remember the boos, and you can understand why they happened. Fans were confused. If they'd been checking nbadraft.net like we all did, they expected him to be the ninth pick. 

Yet in both cases, Ainge and Co. were clearly right. Holding a high pick with no consensus option awaiting him, they wound up with the best player available. 

What's more impressive is that they've also done it later in the draft, and the further down the board you go to make your first pick, the easier it is to take a guy who won't amount to anything, let alone prove to be the best possible selection. 

That's what the Celtics did three years ago with Terry Rozier at No. 16. At the time, Bleacher Report Senior NBA writer Howard Beck deemed that selection the "biggest reach" of the draft; at the very least, the Celtics were heavily criticized for taking him where they did.

Go look at that draft and the players who were selected after Rozier. Would you rather any of those guys over Rozier? Maybe Josh Richardson? Maybe? Probably not, though? 

Now, here's where we need to note that the 2015 draft, for as good as it looks now for the Celtics, could have greatly derailed what's been an excellent rebuild. As the legend goes, Ainge intended to trade a whole lot to get from No. 16 to No. 9 in order to select Justise Winslow, who just had a worse third NBA season than Rozier. 

How badly did Ainge want to move up? According to ESPN's Chris Forsberg that summer, Ainge offered Charlotte "as many as six draft picks, including four potential first-round selections," only to have the deal rejected. Keep in mind that the Celtics still had three Brooklyn picks (which would turn into Brown, Tatum and Kyrie Irving) at that point. 

At any rate, the basketball gods saved Ainge from himself and he followed it up by making the right selection. The latter has happened three straight years now. 

Before that, the Celtics looked more human at the draft. Using 2010 as the cutoff (they didn't have a first-round pick in 2009, so 2010 seemed like a good place to keep it semi-recent), the Celtics have had their fair share of not-quite-misses-but-not-quite-home-runs. The Marcus Smart pick (No. 6 overall in 2014) could have been better spent on Dario Saric. Jared Sullinger (21st overall in 2012) could have instead been Draymond Green (No. 35). Three picks after the Celtics took JaJuan Johnson at 27 (via New Jersey), the Bulls took Jimmy Butler.

Of course, there's no more devastating "what if?" to play than looking back at 2013, when the Celtics got Kelly Olynyk at No. 13 (via Dallas), only to later learn they'd passed on the best player in that draft (Giannis Antetokounmpo). 

Yet that three-year run on not getting the best player has been sandwiched by stronger drafting. In 2010, the C's' selection over Avery Bradley at No. 19 proved to be the best pick they could have made. 

The Celtics are slotted to pick at No. 27 Thursday, a spot that promises very little, though they've got more than enough ammunition to move up. Even if they get whoever proves to be the best NBA player of the guys on the board, there's no promise that said player will have much of an NBA career. Their last three top picks have shown that if they do jump up, they'll get the right guy. 

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: What's the ideal draft night for the Celtics?

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: What's the ideal draft night for the Celtics?

1:26 - With the NBA Draft finally here, it’s still a mystery exactly what Danny Ainge's Celtics are going to do, whether it’s trade up or stand pat with the 27th overall pick. A. Sherrod Blakely reveals his pipe dream for the draft as well as his top five players the C’s could realistically end up taking at 27.

6:27 - Tom Curran, Michael Holley and Danielle Trotta debate if Eric Decker would be a good fit in New England after the veteran receiver said that he’d love to play for the Patriots.

9:26 - We went to you the fans in a Twitter poll to get the scoop on who is the most entertaining team in Boston and Tom Curran and Michael Holley discuss the results.

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