On a night where his efficiency on the court was off the charts, Jaylen Brown was similarly economical with his words in summing up the night for the Boston Celtics.
“We needed a win.”
That Boston did after three straight tough losses, including two in Philadelphia to a potential playoff roadblock. And they got one thanks to focusing their energy where it belonged.
“I thought our defensive intensity was good for most of the game, and our offense fed off of that,” Brad Stevens said after the 141-103 win. “I thought we played with the intent of getting stops and we were able to feed off that instead of the other way around.”
The Celtics came up with 14 steals, the lions share of the 17 Cleveland turnovers, and they turned those into 23 points.
“(The defense) was at our standard, what we’ve been trying to do all year,” Marcus Smart said. “I’m proud of the way we started the game. We’ve had some slow starts and it comes back to bite us a lot of the time. For us to come out tonight the way we did on the defensive end, it was tremendous.”
Kemba Walker (21 points, 4 assists) was in a groove to start the game. His attacking helped turn the double-big lineup that had struggled all season into an effective unit. Both Walker and Jaylen Brown had 13 points going into halftime, but it was Brown and his 20 third quarter points that blew the game open.
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“He’s in a great rhythm scoring, he’s making great physical drives, he’s making open catch and shoot shots also with really tough shots sprinkled in,” Stevens said. “He’s constantly working to improve, he doesn’t play passive, and his skill, his aggressiveness and his improvement are a great combination.”
While his coach and teammates gushed about him, Brown had a different reaction when he was asked if he could enjoy dropping 33 points in only 19 minutes of play.
“Uh, not really,” he flatly said. “We’ve got a back-to-back. We’re playing against a tough team, Chicago, so looking forward to the next one. Obviously extremely grateful to be in that position, but I’m looking forward to the next one.”
If Brown won’t take a second to appreciate a special game, others will, especially the coach who has watched Brown carry the team to unexpected early heights.
“He’s just constantly improved and he has never lost his aggressiveness. So he’s done a great job,” Stevens said. “I’ve said many times, I wasn’t sure we were as good as our record early in the year, but we have had some encouraging moments and Jaylen is obviously a huge bright spot.”