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.
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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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