Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Celtics vs. Pacers: Jaylen Brown’s relentless paint attack has Boston two wins from NBA Finals

Can you guess which remaining active player is leading the 2024 NBA playoffs in points in the paint per game? And would you believe me if I told you it is Jaylen Brown

The Boston Celtics star may have hit the biggest shot of his life from behind the 3-point line in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, but his relentless desire to get to the basket is one of the primary reasons his team is two wins away from a second NBA Finals appearance in three seasons. 

Brown, who said he doesn’t “have the time to give a f—” about being snubbed from the All-NBA Teams, is playing some of the best basketball of his career over the past month. He tied his playoff career-high with 40 points in the Game 2 win over the Pacers, and is averaging 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists on 54.4% shooting over the Celtics’ first 12 games. Both his scoring and his efficiency numbers are postseason career-bests. 

One of the most common criticisms of the Celtics is that they can become over-reliant on the 3-pointer, and they are once again leading the playoffs in 38.9 attempts per game. Brown is single-handedly ensuring that their attack has another dimension. 

His 13.7 points in the paint per game rank seventh among all players in the playoffs, and best among those still battling it out for the title. Per NBA.com, he’s shooting a remarkable 76% in the restricted area and 52.1% on all other paint attempts. Of the 23 players that have taken at least five attempts per game in the restricted area during the postseason, only Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokic have been more efficient than Brown. 

Whether in the halfcourt or transition, on drives or cuts, Brown has insisted his way inside time and time and time again. 

“Me being aggressive, I don’t think anybody over there can really guard me,” Brown said during the Celtics’ second-round series against the Cavaliers. “I just get into the paint, take my time and I feel like that’s what I’ve been doing, not just in the playoffs but all season long. So, I just get to my spots and just do what I do.”

It’s clear he feels the same way about the Pacers. He’s scored 66 points in the two games, and 34 of them have come in the paint, while another 13 have been at the free-throw line. 

Here he is matched up with one of the Pacers’ best defenders, Pascal Siakam, in semi transition. Brown goes straight into his chest, bumps him back and finishes with ease. 

And when he gets a mismatch against one of the Pacers’ smaller defenders, they have no chance. Here he is cruising right past Andrew Nembhard

He’s even shown off some crafty footwork to fool Myles Turner

This time last year, Brown was in the midst of a disastrous series against the Miami Heat in which he averaged 19 points on 41.8% shooting and turned the ball over 23 times. “We failed, I failed,” Brown said after the Celtics’ Game 7 defeat. “We let the whole city down.” 

The Pacers’ defense is decidedly not the Heat’s but you can only play who’s in front of you, and Brown is not letting this latest opportunity go to waste. 

“I watch guys get praised and anointed who I feel like are half as talented as me on either side of the ball,” Brown said after his 40-point effort in Game 2. “But at this point in my life I just embrace it. It comes with being who I am and what I stand for and I ain’t really changing that.”

If he keeps playing like this, the Celtics won’t have to worry about letting anyone down this spring, they’ll be lifting something up. 

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