BOSTON — The Time Lord needed a moment to piece together the timeline.
Robert Williams woke up Tuesday in Los Angeles, got diverted to Chicago where he played an overtime G-League game Wednesday night, then flew back to Boston on Thursday and, with the Celtics short on healthy bodies, was told he’d be dressing for a visit from the Sacramento Kings. Then, in the middle of Boston’s frenetic third-quarter comeback, the rookie got tossed into the madness.
Before Williams could even shake his own cobwebs, teammate Jaylen Brown made consecutive 3-pointers as the Celtics erased their second double-digit deficit of the night and TD Garden rattled with a playoff-like intensity for the first time in a long time.
"I think the only time I heard it that loud was when the Red Sox brought the [World Series] trophy,” admitted Williams. "That s--- was loud. That shit was really loud. But, nah, I never heard it that loud.”
The Garden has seemingly heard more boos than cheers in recent weeks. But Brown changed that by scoring 22 of Boston’s 40 bench points, his third-quarter outburst helping the Celtics rally for a gritty 126-120 triumph.
“That’s what it’s about,” Brown said of the comeback. "That’s Celtic basketball. No matter if it’s ugly or if it’s pretty you just have to figure out a way to get it done.”
☘️ CELTICS 126, KINGS 120
On a night Kyrie Irving dazzled with a loud triple double (31 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds) and the Celtics got contributions from multiple players, it was Brown who fueled the much-needed third-quarter surge and prolonged the good vibes from the LA trip.
Boston pulled ahead briefly at the start of the second half only for the Kings to respond with a 12-0 blitz that pushed the visitors’ lead back to double digits. It was still at 11 with 3:22 to play in the third frame when Brown highlighted Boston’s own 12-0 burst with three triples in an 80-second span.
The Celtics never trailed again.
“[Brown has] been big weapon for us. His 3-ball’s been really falling down the last couple games and then that opens up everything for him,” said fellow bench-mobber Gordon Hayward, whose fourth-quarter aggression helped Boston stay out front. "He’s real gifted at getting to the rim -- he’s so strong and fast. When he gets out in transition, too, he’s pretty dangerous. We need him. We need him, for sure.”
Echoed Kyrie Irving: "[Brown has] been great, just really putting his imprint on the game, being in the right spots, playing with a lot of effort, energy,” said Irving. "That’s what we need from him. He showed a lot of glimpses of it last year, even the year before [in] his rookie year. We just need him to be consistent and be who he is and the rest of us will fill in our spots.”
☘️ CELTICS 126, KINGS 120
This season hasn’t played out anything like Brown probably expected. After shouldering much of the scoring load during Boston’s surge to the cusp of the NBA Finals last season, Brown was supposed to be part of a loaded starting 5 that got Irving and Hayward back from injury.
But that five-man unit fizzled early in the year, the Celtics staggered out the gates to start the season, and Brown soon found himself being blamed for a lot of the team’s inconsistencies. He was eventually shifted to a reserve role, with Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris elevating to starting spots, and the Celtics surged in the aftermath, which only further suggested he was part of the problem.
But it was never really the case. Yes, Brown slumped at the start of the year, but, overshadowed by much of Boston’s team-wide inconsistencies, is that, for the better part of the new calendar year, Brown has been one of the Celtics’ most consistent performers. His shot has defied him at times but Brown has consistently brought energy and, when he’s aggressive attacking the basket, he tends to produce his best nights.
Brown’s minutes, which dipped as low as 23.9 per game in December, have creeped back up to 27 per night in March. There’s a case to be made that he’s earned the right to elevate back to the starting lineup but Stevens has been reluctant to alter his first 5 given the way the team has typically started games well.
He might not deviate from that strategy moving forward but it’s clear that Brown has played his way into a bigger role, regardless of how he’s deployed. And, while he’s on the bench, Hayward figures that group ought to make the most of the situation.
"I think the second unit, we try to get in there and I think we should dominate most second units in the league, if not all of them,” said Hayward. "Just with the talent that we have in that group. So I think trying to get it up and push, especially with [Terry Rozier] and Jaylen, we can really get out and run, get some easy ones and really get ourselves going.
"Coming off the bench, it’s hard to get some rhythm. But if you get some easy stuff coming off a fast break, that’ll make it a lot better.”
Added Morris, the former president of the Bench With Attitude, "No surprise that those guys come in with energy. If we can get that play in the playoffs and the rest of the regular season, it’s going to be tough to stop us.”
The Celtics need a little bit extra from everyone this postseason. They need more from Jayson Tatum and more from Hayward. But, quietly, Brown is giving them more right now. And the Celtics might need to lean even harder on him moving forward.
Brown showed last year how he can impact postseason winning, and he’s playing like he’s trying to prove it again before the playoffs arrive this year.
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