Facing a 14-point deficit against the lowly, short-handed Orlando Magic with only 4:20 left in regulation, Boston Celtics All-Star Jaylen Brown knew the criticism that awaited him if things hadn’t changed for the better.
Leading an 18-4 Celtics run, Brown’s game-tying layup (100-100) capped off a 21-point fourth quarter and forced overtime — where the Celtics beat the Magic 116-111. Jaylen finished with a career-high 50 points on 19-of-29 attempts alongside 11 rebounds and four assists.
“What was going through my head? We needed to win. No way we could have lost this game, it wouldn’t have been good; the media wouldn’t have been good,” Brown laughed after the game during his media availability. “So, I wanted to get a win for everybody.”
The latest Celtics news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Celtics newsletter here!
Quickly approaching the halfway mark of the regular season, Boston remains flawed. It’s difficult to predict which team will show up on a nightly basis.
Jaylen Brown: ‘You Can’t Expect to Get That Lucky’
The Celtics dominated one of the league’s best in the Phoenix Suns on December 31, beating them 123-108. Yet, they’re the same team that found itself on the wrong end of a 20-4 run against the 7-30 Magic, who was without two — Cole Anthony, Jaylen Suggs — of their top four scorers.
Still, Brown and the Celtics mustered up enough willpower to fight back.
“You can’t expect to get that lucky every time,” Brown added, Sunday night. “We got to execute and be better, but it feels good to come out with a W.”
Boston is one game below .500 (18-19) but only three games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Many people want to watch how a Brown and Jayson Tatum-led Celtics team will fare against the conference’s best. While others believe this could be the best time for the president of basketball operations, Brad Stevens, to cut ties with one-half of his All-Star tandem.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe floated potential, though wishful, targets, including Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard, Sacramento Kings’ De’Aaron Fox (and stuff), and Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns.
Brown: ‘Just Trying to Figure it Out’
However, Celtics point guard Marcus Smart believes Sunday’s win is all a part of the process. In concert with transforming into a consistently winning team, Smart says shedding back habits that plagued the middle quarters of Sunday’s win and reading opposing teams’ weaknesses is a lesson that should carry over into the future.
“Just doing what we did in the first quarter to get us that lead, and that’s moving the ball, you know, not settling; letting the game come to us and taking what they give us,” Smart said. “Not trying to force it, playing through Al (Horford), Grant (Williams) — our five-man at the time — and you know, just trying to allow Orlando make the mistakes for us instead of us forcing them. So, we did that, and we let the game come to us, and it wasn’t pretty. It was a little ugly, but we came out with the win, and that’s because we kept our composure, and we kept with it.”
For Jaylen, continuing to improve his game in all aspects comes with the territory, while capturing another win for his team is what mattered most Sunday night.
“Just trying to figure it out. Learning and growing with every opportunity; that’s what life is about beyond basketball,” Brown said. “My teammates made it easy for me tonight. I tried to make some reads, make it easy for them, and we came out, and we got the win. So, that’s the most important thing — we wanted to leave tonight with a win.”