Brown Muscles C's Past Bulls with Dominant Inside Effort

CHICAGO - Jaylen Brown was a man on a mission Monday night in Chicago. His objective: to muscle his way to the rim as much as possible against the Bulls. The result: eight makes on nine shot attempts inside the paint, accounting for 16 of his game-high 21 points that helped lead Boston to a 105-89 win at United Center.

Mission success.

Brown stepped up his game a notch Monday night knowing that the Celtics were without leading scorer Kyrie Irving, who sat out with left knee soreness. He was aggressive from the opening tip, personally outscoring the entire Bulls roster 10-5 during the opening seven minutes of play.

Chicago simply could not stop his drives, and coach Brad Stevens was left wanting more.

"We need him to be at the rim a lot," Stevens said after the game. "With his athleticism, and obviously when he plays the 2, he usually can get to the rim or post. The more that we can have those threats at the rim, the better."

Brown mixed things up by also taking four shot attempts from beyond the arc. The 6-foot-7 wing connected on just one of those long-range attempts, but Stevens was ecstatic about the fact that he only attempted 3-pointers and close-range shots given that those are the two most efficient ways of scoring in today's NBA.

"In an ideal world, that's what you want all the time," said Stevens. "But that's not what defenses want to give, so you have to work hard to get those shots. Easier said than done.

"But his physicality," added the coach," we want him to drive the ball. I thought even the play at the end of the first half where we had a shot-clock violation, I liked his attitude and aggressiveness going to the basket like that."

Al Horford, who has been with Brown throughout both his rookie and sophomore seasons, was also impressed by Brown's aggressiveness. The veteran big man says it's something that Brown has really improved upon from Year 1 to Year 2.

"I think that Jaylen, the more that he plays and understands the game, the more it slows down for him," observed Horford, who logged his 10,000th career point Monday night during a 13-point effort. "At times he can go a little fast, but he's starting to figure out the times that he can go fast and the times that he needs to just take his time. And he's a tough guy to keep in front of, so it was just great to see him just being able to get to the basket and finish. Plus, he's getting fouled a lot of the times and he's still finishing through contact."

Brown agreed with Horford's observation, but also added that a lot of his improvements have been a result of hard work.

"You could say that the game is slowing down, but I work a lot on my craft, too," said Brown, who also notched four rebounds, three assists and a plus-29 rating. "So, I just think I'm getting better. And that's what it's all about: just continuing to get better, continuing to grow and things like that. I don't want to be making the same mistakes that I was making my rookie year. And I don't want to be making the same mistakes I've made this year when we get to the Playoffs. So, it's all about getting better; it's all about the growth process. I understand that, so I'll take my time with it."

The fact that Brown is still in the beginning stages of the development process is scary to think about, because he's already displaying offensive abilities that opposing defenses have no answer to.

"He's an athletic freak," said Shane Larkin, who tallied nine points, four assists and four rebounds while starting in place of Irving. "Whenever he can get downhill and jump at the rim, there's not many people in the league who are going to stay up there as long as him. And he's strong with it too. Whenever he does that, it opens up everything else for everybody. He had a good game tonight and helped everybody else get going, and hopefully he can keep doing that."

Brown has shown signs of greatness throughout the season, so there's no reason to believe that can't keep producing at the level he did Monday night. His ability to muscle his way to the basket and finish through contact is growing by the day, so he should have plenty more successful missions to come as the Celtics continue their push through the final stretch of the season.