Brown Returns to Action in Record-Setting Fashion on Opening Night

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When Jaylen Brown entered training camp three weeks ago, he claimed that he felt “lighter than ever, faster than ever, stronger than ever.”

Folks, he was not lying.

The sixth-year Celtics wing wasted no time in showing just how spectacular he was feeling Wednesday night, as he opened the regular season with a career-high 46-point effort against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. He also snagged nine rebounds, dished out six assists, and snagged three steals, while shooting 16-of-30 from the field, 8-of-14 from 3-point range, and 6-of-8 from the free-throw line, all despite his team suffering a 138-134 loss in double-overtime.

In the process, Brown established a new franchise record for most points scored in a season-opener, smashing Bob Cousy and Paul Pierce’s shared mark of 35 points. He also became just the third NBA player in the last 25 years to score at least 20 points in the first quarter of the season, as he hit that mark on the head to join the likes of Stephen Curry and CJ McCollum.

But we haven’t even mentioned the most impressive part: Brown accomplished all of those feats despite being only 24 hours removed from a week-and-half-long isolation period following a bout with COVID-19.

The only question we have is: How?

“I don't know how I did it,” Brown answered honestly. “I spent a lot of time in quarantine, thinking about when I was going to get back out there, just imagining, seeing the game, visualizing. And some shots fell tonight. I only had 24 hours to prepare. My breathing felt irregular but fine for the most part. Towards the end, I could feel my heartbeat through my chest.”

The coaching staff monitored Brown’s minutes early on, playing him in short stints since he had been dealing with respiratory issues over the past couple of weeks. It was tough to take him out later in the game when things got tight down the stretch, but fortunately, he got some breathers thanks to some timeouts and stoppages of play.

“He was playing so well, we didn’t want to take away his momentum,” said first-year head coach Ime Udoka. “At times in the game, we still were cognizant of that and trying to find him a break here and there, but he was rolling. Plenty of timeouts there, so he got a little extra rest and we kept him in for some longer stretches than we planned.”

By the end of the second overtime, Brown had played a whopping 46 minutes. He claims that his adrenaline took over and helped him push through the fatigue.

Though, there were times when his exhaustion kicked in, like when he couldn’t get up high enough to convert a dunk near the end of the second overtime. But for the most part, he was flawless, like when he nailed a clutch 3-pointer from the Knicks logo to keep Boston’s hopes alive during the closing seconds of regulation.

“For the most part, I felt fine, to be honest,” said Brown, whose previous career-high had been 42 points. “Coming out of quarantine, playing 46 minutes, I think I did OK in terms of just physical standing. Being away from the team that much that long, it's always like a risk of injury coming back with the high-level intensity. The guys in New York are a physical team. But I think my body held up well.”

Part of the reason Brown’s body held up so well probably had to do with the fact that he is in the best physical shape of his career, as he focused on getting his body right this past summer following offseason wrist surgery.

The results are showing early on that Brown is indeed lighter than ever, faster than ever, stronger than ever – and without a doubt better than ever, as he enters Year 6.