Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Brown’s improved defense has been at the heart of why he has registered double-digit minutes each of the last three games, which includes Tuesday’s 115-104 win over Utah.
Prior to that, Brown saw his playing time dip to four minutes against Memphis on Dec. 27, and six minutes against the New York Knicks on Christmas Day.
Even with the drop in playing time, Brown stuck to his routine of getting to court early, on off days and staying late when possible.
Regardless of whether it’s his scoring or defense that gets him on the floor, Brown’s mindset remains locked into doing whatever he can to be an impact performer in whatever minutes he’s given to work with.
“I’m as confident as ever,” Brown said. “My confidence hasn’t wavered. You make mistakes. That’s part of the game. But I try not to hesitate on the floor. I’m just going to play my game.”
Alright, alright, enough about Jae Crowder venting, and the talking heads talking. Let’s instead discuss the guy who’s really going to take Crowder’s job soon– Jaylen Brown (just kidding, Jae, promise! Or should I say, JUST KIDDING, JAE, PROMISE!).
Tuesday night’s Jazz game was nationally televised on NBATV, and seeing as both teams are playing close to .600 ball, it drew plenty of observers, many of whom were impressed with the rook’s development:
Yeah, even though on draft night I think the analysis was accurate, my criticism of the Jaylen Brown pick is gonna bit me in the ass. A lot.
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) January 4, 2017
I like how Jaylen Brown isn’t asked to do too much, but is allowed freedom to just play.
Opposite of Kedrick Brown glued in the corner.
— Russillo (@ryenarussillo) January 4, 2017
Watching a rookie is an emotional roller coaster for fans and it’s easy to get too high or too low while making snap judgments. The key is to look for flashes, and then to next look for consistency. Brown has shown flashes since day one of the season– thunderous dunks, finishing in traffic, smooth turnaround jumpers, heady defensive plays, but, of course, he’s mixed in the mind-bending turnover, the clanked and ill-advised three-point attempt and the missed defensive assignment.
Consistency is coming, though, and it’s been evident over the last few games. For those expecting more minutes and more production, take a look at this stat line from a number three pick just under half-way through his rookie season:
Game 33: 17 minutes, 1/4 FG, 0/3 3pt, 3 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 turnovers, -6 +/-
Here’s a hint, last week he put up 50 more points, 13 more rebounds and 16 more assists than he did in that game seven years ago.
This shit takes time! As Kevin Garnett would probably explain, it’s like baking a cake. Lots of different ingredients that need to come together. For now? Let’s enjoy the flashes, hope for consistency and dream of Jaylen Brown doing Harden-type things on the perennially contending Celtics seven years from now.
On page 2, ok, we can return to Jae now
The Celtics, winners of eight of their past 10 overall, have only recently started to look a bit more like the team that was pegged to push the Cleveland Cavaliers in the East, but they undoubtedly lead the league in one advanced metric: chips per shoulder.
Nothing seems to motivate the players in Boston’s locker room quite like the notion of being overlooked or disrespected. Before Tuesday’s game, Celtics coach Brad Stevens had accurately predicted how Thomas would react to news that Washington’s John Wall had won the Player of the Month award for December.
Said Stevens: “I think Isaiah will do what he normally does with results like that and put them on his shoulder.”
Sure enough, Thomas responded by pairing a game-high 29 points with a career-best 15 assists. As ESPN Stats & Information noted, Thomas was responsible for 65 total points in Tuesday’s game, 13 more than his mesmerizing 52-point, 0-assist performance in Friday’s win over the Miami Heat.
Crowder, whose blood boiled when fans cheered potential free-agent-to-be Hayward before Tuesday’s tipoff, admitted he had a little extra fire while matching his season high of 21 points that included a quintet of 3-pointers. It was the first time Crowder had scored more than 20 points since opening night.
I’m not going to opine on Crowder– enough people have already done that for me. What I will say is that I completely agree that the Celtics roster definitely has the most players who carry very large chips on their shoulders. Plenty of these guys have been overlooked for their accomplishments (Bradley, IT) or have had to grind hard to establish themselves (Crowder, Jerebko, Gerald Green) or just have tough juice in their DNA (Marcus Smart). I actually think this “chippiness” may have back-fired on the Cs earlier this season, as they began carrying themselves as if they had already arrived as an elite team, and thus stopped playing with that edge.
It seems to be back, and if Crowder, Thomas and the like need slights, real or perceived, to help the Celtics get back to their DNA, so be it.
Last thing on Crowder, I’m just curious to see, what’s the reception like for him tomorrow night? I don’t at all expect boos, but will he get a louder than usual cheer? Do fans, collectively, need to show him they have his back?
Related links: Herald – Jae Crowder regrets anti-twitter rant
And finally, a neutral-observer’s take on Tuesday night’s game
3. You Have to Attack Thomas on Defense
Thomas is too good on offense to let him take the night off on defense, and one of the only ways to stop a scorer of his caliber is to get into his legs on the other side of the ball. Unfortunately for the Jazz, with Hill out they had to turn to Shelvin Mack and Raul Neto at the point guard position.
Quin Snyder tried Hood on Thomas for a few minutes in the second quarter, and a supersized lineup of Hayward as the primary ball handler, Hood, and Joe Johnson as the third perimeter player would have made life impossible for Thomas. Teams like Cleveland and Toronto will likely try to similarly upsize if they wind up facing Boston in the playoffs.
First, an aside on The Ringer– while I often find myself longing for Grantland (their NBA coverage with Zach Lowe leading the way was top-notch), The Ringer is establishing its NBA voice and Jonathan Tjarks, who wrote on the Celtics/Jazz yesterday, is an informative read. The thing that makes Lowe so good is that I feel like I’m sitting in Basketball 401 and I walk away from an article having learned something. Hard to match that, but Tjarks is insightful nonetheless.
He isn’t watching every Celtics game, but his point about how to guard Thomas goes along with the blueprint we’ve seen work in the playoffs the last two years– especially against the Cavs in 2015. Blitz IT out around 30 feet and invade his space with a double-team. Then, on the other end, play big enough so that he has to work hard defensively.
Here’s the thing, IT has gotten better and smarter. I’m excited to watch teams try to “upsize” him in the playoffs. Not sure it works as effectively this year.
The rest of the links: