Blakely: Brown’s play, leadership propel C’s to Game 3 win originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Many of the Boston Celtics players came into the Orlando Bubble with a heavy heart, juggling a cacophony of emotions ranging from helping lead the team to an NBA title, to the health and well-being of family members as it relates to the coronavirus, to using their platforms to raise awareness to some of the societal issues that are raging throughout the country.
Throw in being down 2-0 to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, in a Bubble with little to no room to just get away from it all, and it stands to reason that a few players snapped.
Jaylen Brown was among them.
Like most of his teammates, he too was angry and upset at the way the team was playing against the Heat, a team that with all due respect, they felt they were better than.
And when you look at the fact that Boston had outscored Miami in five of the first eight quarters of play and led for more than 65 percent of the time in Games 1 and 2, Brown has a point.
None of that mattered on Saturday.
The only thing that Brown and the Celtics were consumed with, was finding a way to do what they failed to do in the first two games against Miami – get a win.
And leading that effort in Game 3 was Brown, whose play was very much a catalyst for the rest of the Celtics whose collective efforts were needed to put away a pesky Miami Heat team 117-106.
Brown led the Celtics in scoring with 26 points on 11-for-17 shooting from the field to go with seven rebounds, five assists, three steals, and a blocked shot.
But as much as the win was needed to make this a series, it was also required to put to bed for now at least, some of the contentiousness that seemed to have spilled outside the Celtics locker room following Boston’s Game 2 loss.
After Saturday’s Game 3 win, Brown said much of the speculation about the problems Boston was experiencing were, “blown out of proportion.”
He added, “We are in a bubble. There’s a lot of grown men. There’s a lot of passion and emotion going on. But at the end of the day, we’re a family. We represent this organization. We represent each other and we won’t ever let anything come in between that. We’ve got a tremendous opportunity and we understand that and nothing’s going to stop us from trying to maximize that.”
After the Game 2 loss, there were reportedly shouting matches involving players in the locker room, notably Brown and Marcus Smart.
Regardless of what’s said among players, the bottom line always comes back to what happens on the floor.
And on Saturday, Brown was about as impactful a player as we have seen him in this series.
To his credit, he didn’t wait for the game to come to him, either.
He grabbed it from the outset and didn’t let go, scoring early and often in addition to making his presence felt defensively.
And as head coach Brad Stevens will tell you, there’s no special sauce to the recipe for success Boston had going on in Game 3 that was for many stretches, led by the play of Brown.
“Just a bunch of good people committed to each other,” Stevens said. “There’s no special talk, no special things, no rah-rah speeches. It’s who you have in the locker room and are they committed to each other. Everybody gets pushed to emotions in sports. That’s why I was curious to see what would happen tonight, but I didn’t have much doubt. I think this group has some good character.”
And some legit leadership, particularly when you’re talking about Brown.
The 23-year-old Brown is on the NBA Players Association’s Executive Board as one of its Vice Presidents.
He was also actively engaged in protests following the death of George Floyd after a now-ex police officer planted his knee in Floyd’s back for 546 seconds.
Brown having such a varied level of interest isn’t all that surprising to those who know him well.
“Jaylen’s greatest impact, as good as he is at basketball, won’t be in basketball,” Stevens told NBC Sports Boston earlier this season. “He’s a special guy, he’s a special leader. He’s smart but he has courage.”
And it all stems from him becoming a leader on and off the floor at an early age, whether it was being the captain of his state title-winning basketball squad, or the captain of his high school’s chess team.
“I’ve never seen myself as just a basketball player, or just a student or just anything,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston earlier this season. “There’s more to me than just one thing or one interest.”
This is why in Game 3, the most important game of the Celtics season, it was the multi-talented Brown helping get the win by doing what he seemingly does best all the time – being the leader that his team and this Celtics organization needs.