Despite Hiatus, Boston’s 'Fire and Ice' Combo Hasn’t Skipped a Beat
Four months away from basketball was neither enough to extinguish Boston’s Fire, nor to melt its Ice. Inside Florida’s NBA bubble, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are still the same lethal combination that they had been throughout the 2019-20 Season before its suspension in mid-March.
Playing in their second exhibition match of the summer Sunday afternoon, Brown and Tatum combined for 38 points, while playing fewer than 30 minutes apiece, to help lead Boston to a 117-103 win over the Phoenix Suns.
For Brown, his game-high 21-point performance was his second consecutive strong outing after leading the Celtics’ starters in scoring during Friday night’s scrimmage against Oklahoma City. For Tatum, his 17-point, nine-rebound effort was a strong bounce-back from his first exhibition, during which he struggled out of the gate.
From Kemba Walker’s standpoint, it’s no surprise to see the pair having early success this summer. He believes it ties directly to the effort they put into staying in shape during the four-month break.
“JB and JT, they work super hard,” said Walker, who returned to action after missing the first scrimmage and logged six points during nine minutes of play. “I know the work they put in over the hiatus and it’s going to pay off.”
“Two special talents,” he continued. “JB hasn’t missed a beat, and then JT came in today, super aggressive and he’s seeing some shots fall. I’m happy for him and hopefully he can continue to see the ball go in and continue where he left off before all this stopped.”
During both scrimmages thus far, Brown has led Boston’s attack from the get-go. He scored seven points during the first quarter of Friday night’s action, and then scored another 10 points during Sunday’s opening frame.
To coach Brad Stevens, the 23-year-old wing doesn’t look any different than he did back when the season was in full swing in early March.
“He’s always been a guy that’s been very competitive, very driven,” Stevens said. “He wants to be great, so he works hard. I don’t see a whole lot of change in him from that perspective. I just see a guy that’s continuing to add experience on experience. He’s a huge part, obviously, of our team, and we’re going to need him to be good to have a chance.”
The Celtics will also need Jayson Tatum to be good in order to have a chance, and that proved true during Friday night’s 98-84 loss to the Thunder when he tallied just three points on 1-of-6 shooting during 18 minutes of action.
The 22-year-old All-Star also missed his first four shots of Sunday’s game, but that changed as soon as he saw the ball swish through the net. After hitting a free-throw late in the first quarter, Tatum went on to score eight points over a three-possession span, and he never cooled off after that.
“It felt good,” Tatum said of finding his shooting flow. “I think that’s why the scrimmages are important: to knock some of the rust off and to try to get back in a rhythm and in a groove. It just felt good to see some shots go through.”
When both he and Brown are in a groove together, that’s when things can get scary for the opposition.
“You can see that the chemistry between them is real,” assistant general manager Mike Zarren told Celtics.com at halftime. “Even on the play when Jayson got fouled, he still looked for Jaylen across the court to shoot a 3 after the whistle. Those guys love playing with each other and you could see it in the game here today.”
Added Tatum on his and Brown's 'Fire and Ice' combination, “We’re both just young guys trying to continue to make a way, trying to find a way, and continuing to help our team improve and to compete for a championship. We’re just trying to get better as individuals and get better at playing with each other.”