Boston Celtics

Celtics' Jaylen Brown Finds Redemption Amid Tension-Filled Finish Vs. Lakers

Forsberg: Jaylen Brown finds redemption amid the tension at TD Garden originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

BOSTON -- One full minute.

That’s how much time elapsed from the moment Jaylen Brown drew a (very late) whistle until he shot a tension-filled free throw in the final seconds of the fourth quarter of the Boston Celtics’ rivalry showdown against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night at a frenzied TD Garden.

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If this was a Hollywood movie, we’d scoff at the absurdity of the moment. Forty-eight hours after missing a pair of late-game free throws that contributed to an overtime loss against the Knicks, Brown got a chance at immediate redemption with a single free throw to tie the game with 4.1 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

Brown, playing with five fouls, had helped will Boston back from a double-digit deficit on sheer grit. And it all culminated with a wild sequence.

Brown caught old friend Dennis Schroder ball-watching as Al Horford’s corner 3-point attempt rocketed off the top of the backboard. With help from Grant Williams sealing off LeBron James, Brown swooped in for the putback and got an absurdly late and-1 whistle (to be fair to the official, the Garden was pure bedlam at that point).

And then the seemingly interminable wait began -- all while everyone in the building realized Brown was going back to the free throw line for a must-have shot. And a chance at redemption.

The next 60 seconds felt like six hours. Patrick Beverley protested to any referee who would listen and demanded a challenge that the Lakers had already burnt. Paul Pierce and his Celtics pajama pants excitedly high-fived Donnie Wahlberg near the Boston bench.

Brown stood patiently at the free throw line long enough that both Jayson Tatum and Williams had time to drop by with quick words of encouragement. Lakers players crisscrossed the lane, extending the wait. The ABC broadcast had time to show two different slow-motion replays.

Finally the ball bounced to Brown -- only for two officials to come rushing in for a quick conference. There was so much tension in the building that Gorilla Monsoon is certain you could have cut it with a knife.

Finally, Brown stepped to the line. One deep sigh. Three dribbles.  A deep knee bend. And launch.

Sam Hauser about sums up the feeling in the building as the ball traveled towards the basket...

Brown leaned forward as if trying to will the ball through the cylinder. It obliged, as the entire Garden exhaled.

It was just one bit of the overall drama that would unfold from there. LeBron James threw an Oscar-worthy hissy fit after officials missed an obvious Tatum foul on the final play of regulation. Beverley found a photographer with a snapshot of the foul and got himself a technical for marching out to mid-court to show an official. The Celtics actually had a one-point lead when the overtime jump ball went up because of it.

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But this night belonged to Brown. He played the last 12 minutes of game action with five fouls but still scored 20 of his team-high 37 points in that span. That included 11 points in overtime as the Celtics emerged with a much-needed 125-121 win.

"Life is about how you respond," said Brown.

Brown’s big night shouldn't come as a surprise. He always tends to respond well to bumps in the road. But he might have been too eager to atone early against the Lakers and found himself in cumbersome foul trouble. 

Yet, when it really mattered, Brown came through. And that free-throw sequence was one of the more high-tension moments you’ll ever see in a regular-season game. 

So what was going through Brown’s mind in that moment?

"Nothing. Clear as day,” said Brown. "Locked in, focused on winning. No doubt in my mind."

In the aftermath of Thursday’s gut-punching loss, teammates repeatedly suggested that they would trust Brown if that situation ever came up again. No one could have imagined it happening just 48 hours later. 

Brown rewarded their faith.

"I said after last game, he's a special player and we all had all the faith in the world in him,” said Derrick White. "He stepped up and he made the big free throw to send us to overtime. Special player and it's good to see him bounce back that way.”

Added Malcolm Brogdon: "He’s Jaylen Brown. He’s an All-NBA guy and he’s an All-Star. He’s gonna bounce back, he’s gonna play great. I thought last game he played well. He missed some free throws so that overshadowed the game but he’s been on a tear so we expected that from him."

Despite dealing with a groin strain for part of the month, Brown has been fantastic over his last 15 games dating back to right before Christmas. He’s averaging 28.5 points in that span while shooting 49.2 percent from the floor despite a slight dip in his 3-point shooting.

Brown missed out on a chance to start in the All-Star Game when Kyrie Irving landed one of the East’s two guard spots by finishing first in fan and player voting. Brown finished second in media voting, and third in both fan and player voting. Donovan Mitchell earned the other guard spot in the East.

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Brown should still end up in Utah when reserves are announced next week based off coach voting. Brown’s scoring is up 3.5 points per game from last season and he’s shooting a career-best 58.4 percent on all 2-point shots.

His usage rate has spiked -- and his turnover percentage has risen a little bit with it -- but there’s been far more good than bad with Brown this season. And his strong play is often overshadowed by the exploits of MVP-chasing Tatum.

On Saturday night, Brown was exquisite when it mattered. There was a midrange turnaround over Anthony Davis to light his fourth-quarter fuse. A strong drive for a lefty layup followed soon after. He briefly put Boston out front with a drive and finish over Rui Hachimura with under 2 minutes to play. It all simply set up the big put-back and free throw in a clutch situation.

Brown bulldozed his way through Schroder for another and-1 early in the overtime. A pull-up 3 in transition had Boston up six and Isaiah Thomas tweeting about teaching him that shot.

Brown simply wasn’t going to let this one get away. He got redemption, but more importantly, he got the win. Brown’s teammates were thrilled for him after the game.

"I was obviously extremely happy, for one, that he got that opportunity again,” said Tatum. "A lot of times, you only get one chance at certain things. We played some good games. For it to be the next game, it was kind of like ironic and funny in a sense. 

"I had no doubt in my mind he was to make it. I was just happy he got that opportunity — not for anybody else, but just to redeem himself."

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