Jaylen Brown bounced back big in Game 2: 7 takeaways from Celtics vs. Bucks

Brown dropped 30 points and helped lift the Celtics in a crucial Game 2.

Celtics Bucks Game 2
Celtics' Jaylen Brown reacts after making a 3-pointer in Game 2. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Jaylen Brown showed up for the Game 2 showdown between the Celtics and the Bucks more than three hours early on Tuesday, after putting together one of the worst playoff games of his career to date in Game 1.

The results showed. Brown came out firing, pouring in 17 first-quarter points en route to a 30-point evening, as the Celtics evened the series against the Bucks with a 109-86 win. Much to Celtics’ fans satisfaction, Brown even sat Grayson Allen down on one memorable crossover.

“That was our first true test in the playoffs, how you respond,” Brown said. “I know a lot of us were a little bit worried — not worried, but curious as to how we would come back in this position, because we hadn’t lost. That was our first loss in the playoffs so far, so getting accustomed to losing is something that we don’t want to do, but in a good way, how you respond is everything.


“What you’re made of comes to light in those moments, so you got to see what the Celtics were about tonight.”

The Celtics weren’t perfect. They held on in the second half, rather than pulling away. They haven’t figured out how to score in the paint against the Bucks’ hyper-aggressive defense yet. They still seem to settle at times.

But many of the worst issues that presented themselves in Game 1 were resolved. Brown and Tatum still weren’t perfect, but they were much better (a combined 20-for-38 from the field and 11-for-20 from three). As a team, the Celtics finished with just 11 turnovers, which limited the Bucks’ transition opportunities. They moved the ball more consistently and created great looks instead of decent ones.

“Sometimes passing up open shots to get a great shot is what we kind of like to do,” Brown said. “So we’ve been honing in on that, emphasizing that and that was one of the possessions that I thought it shined through.”

The Celtics have a lot more to figure out, but they have plenty of time to do it — due to bizarre scheduling, there are three days off in between Games 2 and 3, and Marcus Smart will likely return.


After dropping Game 1, the Celtics staved off disaster. Now they need to figure out a way to take control of the series.

Other takeaways

2. The Celtics outshot the Bucks 20-3 from 3-point range, while the Bucks outscored the Celtics 54-24 in the paint. If you make the shots the Bucks want you to take, you have a great chance of winning. If you don’t, they can creep back from a 20-point deficit and make a fourth-quarter a little more stressful.

The Celtics evened the series, but they need to figure out sustainable ways to beat the Bucks around the rim. Much of the discrepancy is by design — the Bucks give up 3-pointers, and the Celtics clearly opted to prioritize 3-point defense while letting Grant Williams and Al Horford guard Giannis Antetokounmpo 1-on-1 — but the Celtics could feel a lot more comfortable if they weren’t so reliant on their jump shots falling.

3. Grant Williams has a lot of room to grow as a player and it’s unclear exactly what direction his game will take next. Can he become more of a ball-handler, attacking off the catch when opponents close out to his now-impressive 3-point shooting? Can he continue to improve his passing, which would open his game even more? How much better can his already stalwart defense get?


One thing we know, however: 23-year-old Grant Williams is a good basketball player right now, and the Celtics would be in trouble without him. On Tuesday, he dropped 21 points including 6-for-9 shooting from 3-point range, and he was a major part of opening up the paint against the Bucks’ aggressive defense. Defensively, he was impressive defending Antetokounmpo again — standing strong against Antetokounmpo’s muscular drives into the paint.

“His versatility as I talked about, he’s like a mini Al out there,” Ime Udoka said. “We ask him to do the same things and where other guys are making plays. His shot-making ability, he’s been doing that all year, but his versatility and being able to switch onto guards and guard him one-on-one in the post and be physical and frustrate him to some extent is what we need with a player like that.”

The Celtics have some interesting decisions to make next year, because Williams is ready to contribute at a high level.

4. Antetokounmpo scored just two points in the first quarter, but he exploded for 18 in the third. After just two minutes at the start of the fourth, he came back into the game.

Antetokounmpo is as crucial to his team offensively as Kevin Durant was to the Nets, but Antetokounmpo’s game looks more exhausting — if Durant needs a bucket, he can always pull up from 3-point range. Antetokounmpo has to keep driving and driving incessantly, forcing his way to the rim and pushing through the opposing defense. When the opposing defenders are Horford and Grant Williams, that task becomes a lot more taxing. The fact that Antetokounmpo still finished with 28 points is a testament to the former MVP, but the Celtics can be encouraged by how difficult they made things for perhaps the best player in the world.


5. Brown said his hamstring is fine, even though he grabbed it a few times during the game. He plans to be ready for Game 3 on Saturday.

6. Hey, don’t do this.

7. The Celtics looked like a team that weathered its first real storm in Game 1 and came out the other side intact. The series is far from over, but the Celtics — who have played good teams well ever since they turned their season around in January — may have needed a refresher course on beating a contender after playing the Nets.

“We had a great series against Brooklyn and then came in in the first game and got punched in the mouth,” Brown said. “It all woke us up. All the adversity, all the negativity, everything we had to overcome, you look at it and you channel it into these moments, and you don’t let your team lose. You need every bit of that each and every game. You want to continue to channel that adversity, channel the things you’ve had to overcome all year into that game, because it’s just one.”


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