Celtics

What can Jaylen Brown do for Celtics? Get buckets in the 4th quarter

What can Jaylen Brown do for Celtics? Get buckets in the 4th quarter

BOSTON -- One of the central figures in Boston’s near-comeback on Sunday night against Orlando was Jaylen Brown, who drained a couple of clutch 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.

“I thought he made great plays,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens following the 116-108 loss. “Kyrie did a really good job of finding him.”

But here’s the thing.

When it comes to fourth-quarter play, Irving seems to consistently find Brown when he’s not scoring.

And that dynamic may be one of the more glossed-over aspects of Brown’s game, particularly this season.

The only player on this Celtics roster who scores more than Brown in winning time — AKA the fourth quarter — is Kyrie Irving.

“That's kind of crazy when you put it like that,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston. “But I try to be aggressive and try to play both sides of the ball, try and establish myself as a young, two-way player and try to put my best bet forward every night.”

And it is Brown’s defense that's at the heart of why he has been a regular in the rotation either as a starter or key reserve in his three seasons as a Celtic.

But as we have seen, Brown can get buckets, too.

Last season, his 14.5 points per game average was second on the team to Irving.

And this season, he’s averaging 13.0 points per game with 4.0 points coming in the fourth quarter, which trails Irving’s team-best 6.1 points per game in the fourth.

Brown is also shooting 50.7 percent from the field in the fourth which is tops among all non-centers for Boston, while also connecting on 40 percent of his 3-point shots in the quarter, which is tops among all Celtics who have played at least half the season.

So it’s clear that the Celtics have certainly benefited from Brown’s late-game point production.

But against the Pacers, Stevens says what Brown does defensively will be among the more important factors required for Boston to emerge victorious.

“We need him to be a great defender for us as we enter the playoffs,” said Stevens, who added, “and everything else will take care of itself.”

From the time Brown arrived in Boston, he has shown signs of being an above-average defender.

And as he learned quickly, playing well at that end of the floor was the best route to take when it came to playing under Brad Stevens.

But here’s thing about Brown.

The 22-year-old is like most young NBA players whose talent is still trending away from potential, and towards a more proven body of work.

And that may be at the heart of why it took some time for Brown to fine-tune his role with the Celtics, a role that will be among the more important ones heading into their first-round series against the Indiana Pacers which begins in Boston this weekend.

Brown went from starting a year ago and being the team’s No. 2 scorer, to coming off the bench while trying to establish his role with a clustered group of talented players that could score, a group that includes Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward and Marcus Morris.

Making that kind of change would be difficult for any NBA player, let alone one as young as Brown.

But as the season progressed, Brown has gradually found his niche with the team, a niche that includes him delivering some big shots for the Celtics in the always-decisive fourth quarter of games.

“I think it gets overshadowed because people … having a set mindset, their expectations, ‘oh he's just a defender,’” Brown said. “It's kind of like a blessing and a curse. But I can score the ball at a high level.”

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NBA picks: Celtics vs. Suns betting predictions, plays against the spread

NBA picks: Celtics vs. Suns betting predictions, plays against the spread

The Boston Celtics aren't invincible, after all.

The Celtics had their nine-game winning streak snapped Sunday in Sacramento against the Kings when Marcus Smart's floater at the buzzer rimmed out.

Boston's 100-99 defeat was the team's second consecutive loss against the spread, as the C's only beat the Golden State Warriors by five on Friday night.

Will that trend continue on stop No. 3 of the Celtics' west coast road trip? The C's are road underdogs for just the fourth time this season for Monday's game against the upstart Phoenix Suns, who are 7-4 on the young season.

It's an intriguing scenario, so we'll dive right in with our moneyline, point spread and point total picks for Celtics-Suns, then give you our two NBA locks against the spread.

(All odds provided by WestGate Superbook.)

Boston Celtics at Phoenix Suns, 9 p.m. ET

Moneyline: The Celtics' offense has looked pedestrian without Gordon Hayward on the start of this road trip. The Suns are giving up points in bunches, though, and this has the feel of a bounce-back game for a Boston club that got humbled in Sacramento. Put your faith in the Celtics (+145) to win outright. 

Point Spread: The Suns are much-improved, but they're not as good as their 7-4 record. The Celtics are 5-2 on the road and nearly beat the Kings despite a quiet night from Kemba Walker. Expect Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to power the Celtics (+3.5) to a win as road underdogs.

Point Total: Phoenix has allowed 112 points or more in four consecutive games. That's a good sign for a C's team that has mustered just 199 points over its last two contests. The OVER has hit in six of these teams' last 10 meetings, so I'll roll with the C's and Suns surpassing 226.5 points in a shootout.

Darren's record picking the Celtics' moneyline, point spread and point total: 16-10-1

NBA Locks of the Night

Cleveland Cavaliers (+3) at New York Knicks: The point spread is the only reason why you should watch this matchup of Eastern Conference cellar-dwellers. The Cavs are 7-3 against the spread this season and have shown some fight despite their poor record. The Knicks continue to be hopeless.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Clippers (-10): Paul George will have the sole objective of getting buckets in his first game against his former team. The Clippers also are 7-1 against the spread at home, and Kawhi Leonard could return after sitting out the last two games. Take the home team to the bank.

Darren's record picking NBA locks against the spread: 10-7-1

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Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Celtics vs. Kings Instant Overreactions: C's starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence?

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AP photo

Celtics vs. Kings Instant Overreactions: C's starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence?

The Boston Celtics had their 10-game win streak snapped on Sunday as they fell to the Sacramento Kings, 100-99.

It came down to the final buzzer as Marcus Smart's last-second floater hung on the rim, but failed to fall into the basket.

Here are three instant overreactions from the loss, which brings the C's to 10-2 on the season:

1. The C's are starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence.

Verdict: Overreaction

The Celtics have looked out of sync offensively in their last couple of games. Friday night's close call vs. the lowly Golden State Warriors left plenty to be desired, and their struggles in Sunday's loss didn't do much to inspire confidence either as they turned the ball over 14 times.

If we see one or two more lackluster performances like this on the West Coast road trip, it may be time to start counting down the days until Hayward's return. But for now, I'm willing to give the C's talented offensive unit the benefit of the doubt.

2. Jaylen Brown and Buddy Hield both are showing they're worth every penny.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

Jaylen Brown finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, going 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Once again, he was one of Boston's standout performers on the offensive side and is backing up his statement about his game improving.

As for Hield, he continues to reward the Kings for signing him to a four-year, $86 million contract extension last month. The Celtics simply had no answer for the Indiana product, who dropped 35 points while going 7-for-12 in 3-pointers. Hield also drilled a key 3 late in the fourth quarter to help Sacramento come out on top.

3. Semi Ojeleye is the new Steph Curry.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

OK, fine, it may be a SLIGHT overreaction. Still, Ojeleye surprised everyone by going 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and tallying 11 points off the bench. He was one of the bright spots in the Celtics' disappointing loss.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.