Here are the takeaways, as the Celtics put together an impressive rally late against the Magic, led by 50 points from Jaylen Brown.
On Friday, after helping the Celtics defeat the Suns without Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown was asked by a reporter if he would like to be the primary scorer on a team.
“It’s a role I’m not asked to play in any role in my career,” Brown said. “… Sometimes it does not look so good, but when I invent things, be careful.”
Brown’s performance on Sunday against the Magic made his bravado to the Suns more than a prediction. By putting a sloppy first half (resulting in five of his seven turnovers) aside, Brown put together a monstrous 50-point performance (19-for-29) on a night when the Celtics needed all 50. He buried several 3-pointers in a row in the first half, which was his strongest stretch the last few weeks, but a big second half lifted him to a career milestone and was largely a result of quickly drives to the hoop.
“The growth with JB is very real,” said Marcus Smart. “I think we witnessed it all.”
Brown noted after the game that the Celtics needed a win – otherwise “the media would not have been good” – and said he did not realize he had a great night until late in the game.
“I looked up and I was 47 and I was like, ‘Damn,'” Brown said. “
How the Celtics can get both Brown and Jayson Tatum to treat each other more consistently remains the most pressing question of the season, but Brown reminded everyone how good he can be.
“Good days and bad days, but I will continue to learn and grow in those positions and my team will help the line,” Brown said. “We’ll be rolling, especially when we get it [Jayson Tatum] back, and we get the rest of our boys back.
“These last few games I think I’ve learned a lot.”
2. Dennis Schröder walked to the stage wearing a signed No. 7 Brown jersey. When asked, he smiled.
“That’s for my cousin,” Schröder said. “That’s his favorite player. He turned 50 today, so I thought it was a good time to let him sign it.
Schröder said it was “over time” that Brown scored 50 after Brown excelled in the first two quarters, while Schröder was on health and safety records (before assuring reporters it was not so serious).
“At the end of the day, he was just trying to play the right way and last night he was aggressive and went downhill,” Schröder said. “And no one could stop him last night. So I think he should do that more often: be more aggressive.”
3. A play that might be forgotten (but should not be): With less than a minute left, Marcus Smart a theft removed and found a streaking Brown for the dunk to connect the game.
It’s hard to convince the importance of this game for the Celtics’ comeback. When Smart ran to pull the ball away from Mo Wagner, the Magic big man was isolated against Schröder. A run would have given the Magic a four-point lead with another 40 seconds.
Instead, Smart made the turnover that equalized the score.
“We let the game come to us,” Smart said. “It was not nice, but we came out with the win and that’s because we kept our composure and we kept up with it.”
4. The Celtics dug their hole largely thanks to 23 total turnover.
“Everyone is out there to make a play, and they did a really good job when we tried to make these plays from loading up to us,” Smart said. “We were just one step slow.
“But it’s all in good faith and with good intentions. Everyone was just trying to make a play.”
In the end, the Celtics escaped relatively unscathed: The Magic hit just 23 points on these 21 turnovers, scoring the Celtics with just two.
The glass-half-empty appearance is that the Celtics have finally overcome their tendency to leave a game of snowball against a team that may not be talented enough to roll a snowball. The reaction with a half glass could be that the Celtics at one point had to claim a victory just to prove they could do it, and Sunday’s game was a great opportunity.
5. Both Schröder and Brown made clear references to New Year’s resolutions regarding some of the Celtics’ worst habits.
“We’re trying to put ’20 -21 behind us,” Brown said. “It’s a new year. We’re trying to start on the good note.”
“I mean, we had that,” Schröder said when asked about the rest of the Celtics. “I think it’s a new year, 2022, so we’ll try to work on that.”
The thing about resolutions, of course, is that they are famous for not sticking (gym rats despise the first week or two of January). They can give us some optimism, especially after a difficult year, but that is not enough. To maintain a resolution, it has to be more than a resolution – something you look forward to and prioritize.
Yet, as Brown put it (quoting his Twitter handle): “Faith, consistency, hard work pays off.”
The Celtics are 1-0 in the new year. That is as encouraging as the progress on a resolution could be on 2 January.
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