When Gordon Hayward fell to the ground, with his ankle bent at a 45 degree angle, many Celtics fans assumed the season was lost. It especially seemed that way once Cleveland had a 16 point lead at the half. However, Jaylen Brown had other plans.
The second year wing from Cal had his breakout game, as he was forced to play more minutes than expected (39) with the Hayward injury and the absence of Marcus Morris due to an ankle injury.
He made those minutes count.
LeBron vs. Jaylen Brown
LeBron: 29 points, 16 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 blocks, 12/19 FGM,
Jaylen: 25 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals, pic.twitter.com/K41XEeIgZd
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) October 18, 2017
Brown finished with 25 points and six rebounds, but more importantly, his presence was felt on the defensive end. He tallied two steals, but the on-ball pressure he provided to force turnovers was essential in the Celtics’ comeback effort. The Celtics turned an 18 point deficit into a one point deficit during the third, and their defensive effort (led by Brown) was the main reason for that.
Brown was seen diving into the stands, poking balls loose, and making the extra effort to win the game consistently in the second half. His energy was contagious for the team. When he started hitting three pointers too? That is when it got scary for Cleveland.
Jaylen Brown ? pic.twitter.com/9ALsoj3FXZ
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 18, 2017
If Brown can play like he did in the second half consistently, he can make up for some of what Hayward could have brought to the Celtics. He still needs to work on his shooting, and some decision making too (He had three turnovers). If he can clean that up, and continue bringing defensive energy and pushing the pace in transition, the Celtics can stay afloat as an Eastern Conference contender.
Celtics fans have the right to be saddened by Hayward’s injury, but there is still hope for a top four seed. The improved play of Brown will become pivotal to the team’s success, and when Morris returns from his injury, the team will have more depth, so he does not have to play 39 minutes per game.
So while the number one seed is not reachable, a home court playoff series is very much a possibility for Brad Stevens’ squad.
Celtics’ Brad Stevens Praises Kyrie Irving
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens heaped some incredible praise on Irving for his impressive performance.
Kyrie gets the highest Stevens praise: The 'joke.'— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) April 20, 2019
"The little floating shot he hit was just a joke. He’s ridiculous."
Celtics’ Kyrie Irving Credits Long Plane Ride for Big Win Over Warriors
Celtics guard Kyrie Irving credits a long plane ride, in which he had a lengthy talk with Celtics’ head coach Brad Stevens, for helping the team snap out of their recent funk, and the good feeling has spread throughout the team.
“I understand it’s one game,” Hayward said, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “You are going to have ups and downs in the season. I’ll try to build off the things I did correctly tonight, and the next time you have a bad game, try to learn from that one.”
Hayward’s recent play has provided a spark for the team.
“It makes our team even better when he’s the confident Gordon and playing like the Gordon we know,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said.
“We know it’s been tough on him. That’s one thing about him, you have to give it to him: That man keeps working and working. Even though things aren’t going for him, he continues to work, he doesn’t quit, and that’s why we’re so, so optimistic about getting the old Gordon back, because we see how hard he works.”
“That long plane ride helped us out,” Celtics guard Kyrie Irving said. “I’ll just say that. That long plane ride helped us out.
“We needed it. It was just we were going to get to a point where we were just going to get tired of fighting each other, fighting the outside world. And it doesn’t even really matter. So, we just wanted to come out here and just play basketball. This is our sanctuary. And we have to do everything to protect it. We can’t let anybody infiltrate it.”
Irving opened up about the conversations he had with both Stevens and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.
“Well, I mean, it gets a little overwhelming, like I said, but this is just the business I’m in,” Irving said. “The business part of it is what makes it terrible for me, honestly, dealing with all this s—. I’m going to be honest with you guys. The basketball part, I have to keep that fun. That’s where I’m great, that’s where I love to play and be around my teammates, that’s what makes me happy.
“The business part of it is going to be the business. Personal side of being out here with my teammates is the only thing that should matter. It wasn’t really a change of perspective; it was letting the guard down completely and just not thinking I’m at odds with everybody. It’s not a competition in this locker room; it’s a competition out there. That’s the most important thing.”
“Talking with Brad was very helpful, talking with Danny was very helpful, and just expressing myself rather than keeping it all in,” Irving continued. “That made it very easy to just go out and just have fun playing basketball.”
Celtics’ Marcus Smart Says Team Needs Short Memory for Turnaround
The Boston Celtics have been a bit disheveled this season and there seems to be some discord within the organization, centered on superstar guard Kyrie Irving who appears headed for free agency this summer.
During their recent struggles, the Celtics continue to show consistency, and show that they can make a legit run at the NBA title this season, despite a strong showing in 2017-2018 season.
Celtics guard Marcus Smart believes that in order to see a turnaround the team must adopt short term memory.
“Right now, it doesn’t surprise me because that’s just how things are going for us,” Smart said, according to ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz.
“It surprises me in the fact that that’s not who we are, but at this moment, it doesn’t. We’ve just gotta fix it. Like I said, it’s going to be fixed. It can and will be fixed. It’s just not going at the pace we expected it to.”
Following a recent blowout loss to the Toronto Raptors, Smart was vocal about his views.
“That’s the thing about this game,” Smart said. “You’ve got to have a short memory. This game’s over with, and we’ve gotta focus on tomorrow and get ready to come out and play.”
“Because everybody here’s professional,” Smart continued. “Everybody here plays basketball, and everybody is really talented on this team. And I know the potential that we all have. So, it’s just a matter of time.”
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