Celtics

Jaylen Brown is a star too: 6 takeaways from Celtics vs. Wizards

Brown scored 36 points and led the Celtics to a comfortable win over the Wizards with Jayson Tatum out.

Celtics Wizards
Celtics guard Jaylen Brown drives against Wizards forward Deni Avdija during the first half. AP Photo/Mary Schwalm

The Celtics got a huge performance by Jaylen Brown and cruised to a comfortable 130-121 victory over the Wizards on Sunday, improving to 16-4 and 9-1 at home.

Here’s what happened.

The Big Picture

The Celtics and Wizards locked horns early, but the Celtics used a 12-2 run late in the first quarter to build a nine-point lead after the first quarter. A big second quarter — sparked by the bench, including Malcolm Brogdon (+10 in the first half), Sam Hauser (+14), and Luke Kornet (+9) boosted them to a comfortable 72-55 advantage at halftime.

The third quarter looked like a 30-point blowout in the making — the Celtics extended the lead to 113-88 with another big period, and Joe Mazzulla began the fourth quarter with his starters on the bench in an effort to get them an extended (and much-needed) rest.

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The bench, however, couldn’t quite hold it together. The Wizards whittled the 25-point lead down to 13 with six minutes remaining, and Mazzulla finally subbed Brown, Marcus Smart, and Al Horford back in to finish the job. The Celtics cruised the rest of the way.

Star of the Game

Jaylen Brown: 36 points, 13-for-23, 8-for-8 free throws, five rebounds, two assists

Brown was brilliant, and whenever he was in the game, the Wizards were overmatched. His final basket might have been his nicest.

In the mark of a true star, Brown made that basket look a lot easier than it actually was.

What It Means

The Celtics maintained their dominant stretch of basketball while buying Jayson Tatum a night off. Since joining the league, Tatum has played more than 1,000 minutes more than any other NBA player (as noted on the NBC Sports Boston broadcast). Maybe results like Sunday will convince him that a day off here and there isn’t the end of the world.

Takeaways

1. Tatum is unquestionably the team’s star, and he has moved into the top echelon of the NBA. But Sunday’s game was a reminder that the Celtics have a second star who is putting together an excellent season too.

Brown is averaging 26.1 efficient points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game. When he’s on the floor and Tatum is off, the Celtics are outscoring teams by 10.1 points per 100 possessions this season. Brown has been dominant (+17.1) with the Sam Hauser-Grant Williams-Malcolm Brogdon lineup that Tatum wipes opponents off the floor with (+32.9).

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On Sunday, Brown wasn’t particularly efficient from behind the arc (2-for-7), but he was elite at everything else. That was precisely what the Celtics needed. Giving the Celtics exactly what they need — whether that’s a 1B All-Star next to Tatum or a 1A superstar without him — has been a Jaylen Brown special this season.

2. When Brad Stevens dealt a relatively hefty package to the Spurs for Derrick White last season, part of the rationale was that White — who had played three consecutive losing seasons in San Antonio before he arrived in Boston — might thrive alongside Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, especially as a shooter.

That didn’t materialize last season, but White’s improved shooting is offering enormous dividends now. On Sunday, he was 2-for-4 from deep, and one of his makes was a big shot from the corner in the fourth quarter that helped officially put the Wizards to bed. White added three assists and two steals as well, and he continues to be a reliable part of the ball movement that sets the Celtics’ offense apart, whether he gets credit for the assist or not.

3. One of the reasons Luke Kornet has been so effective for the Celtics (his lineups outscored opponents by 20 points per 100 possessions entering Sunday’s game, per Cleaning the Glass) is that in a weird way, he offers a discount version of what Robert Williams brings to the floor. That might seem ridiculous on its face, given how fundamentally opposite they are physically, but Kornet’s size makes him a rim protector and a lob threat, while Williams’ bounce and length make him a rim protector and lob threat as well. Both players can score when given the ball in the appropriate places. Both can keep the ball moving, and both can move the ball inside-out.

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On Sunday, Kornet put up 12 efficient points, pulled down four offensive rebounds, and blocked a pair of shots in 22 minutes. It’s not clear whether he’ll continue to get minutes when Williams returns, but he is making a strong case for himself.

4. As it turns out, the bench unit is great … but it needs a leader, and that leader probably needs to be one of the Jays. Sunday’s game never felt like it was in doubt, but Payton Pritchard, Kornet, Justin Jackson, and others simply couldn’t hold a lead against Bradley Beal and the rest of the Wizards’ regular rotation.

“I don’t think there’s ever a right answer in any part of the game,” Mazzulla told reporters afterward. “I thought we just adapted to what Washington was doing, and it just looked like they were trying to put the pressure on us and go for the win. We just tried to do the same.”

5. The Celtics had seven players in double figures, and six of them scored in the teens. With their star scorer out, they put up 113 points in three quarters.

“Our guys are always ready to play, ready to step up,” Mazzulla said. “I thought Jaylen did a great job making the right play, getting the ball where it needed to go. I thought everybody else followed suit. That’s a compliment to them for our depth and a compliment to guys making the right play.”

6. The upcoming schedule is bizarre. Sunday’s game was the front end of a back-to-back. Later this week, the Celtics face the Heat twice … and both games take place at the TD Garden. After that, they embark on a six-game road trip, which includes two games against Atlantic Division opponents before a four-game West Coast road trip. All of that — the six-game road trip, the Atlantic Division opponents on the road before traveling west, taking on a team at home twice in a row in a matter of days — is weird.

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The Celtics have been essentially unstoppable through 20 games. This upcoming stretch will be a tough test … and more to the point, a really unique one.

Tomorrow’s game against the Hornets tips off at 7:30 p.m.

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