Brown Returns with a Punch, Leads C's to Blowout Win Over Knicks

BOSTON – Jaylen Brown had one objective in mind Thursday night as he returned to action following a three-game injury absence: “Be aggressive.”

So, as soon as he checked into Boston’s matchup against the New York Knicks at TD Garden, the third-year wing was sure to make his presence felt.

Within a minute of subbing in late in the first quarter, Brown received a pass in the left corner, barreled along the baseline against 6-foot-11 Knicks center Enes Kanter, drew contact and banked home in an over-the-shoulder lay-up, all before calmly walking to the free-throw line to complete the 3-point play.

This was only a taste of what Brown would bring to the table to help his Celtics cruise to a 128-100 win over their Atlantic Division rival.

Fully healed from a lower back injury that he suffered Nov. 24 in Dallas, Brown returned to form with ease, delivering a season-high 21-point effort, while shooting 7-of-10 from the field. All seven of those buckets came from inside the paint, and he added seven more from the free-throw line to tie his career-high.

Brown accomplished all of this while adjusting to a new role. He came off the bench for the first time in the regular season since his rookie campaign in 2016-17. But that change didn’t throw him off one bit.

“I thought he was really good,” coach Brad Stevens commented after the game. “I thought he played with great pace and purpose and made really good decisions. I didn’t think anything was forced, which sometimes, when you come off the bench, that’s one of the things you try to catch up to the game quickly. He just played the right way and (the way) we needed.”

What they needed from Brown was for him to drive to the basket at will, which he did time and time again Thursday night.

“I just think that that’s when he’s at his best,” said Al Horford, who had one of his best games of the season with a 19-point, 12-rebound, four-block effort. “When he’s able to read the floor, attack the right way, there’s not a lot of guys who can stay in front of him.”

That was New York’s main issue during the fourth quarter, when Brown helped to put the game out of reach. The Knicks hung within 10 points for the majority of the game, but Brown finally gave the C’s some separation during the final frame, as he poured in eight points during the last 10 minutes of regulation.

“Just gotta keep hitting that stone – keep hitting that stone and it’s gonna split in half,” Brown said of his relentless approach in putting the Knicks away.

Brown’s tenacity remained the same as always, even while playing a role that he's not used to. He anticipated Wednesday afternoon that he would be coming off the bench upon his return, but that didn’t matter to him in the least. as long as he would still be able to do his part in helping the team win.

“It’s no different for me,” Brown said of coming off the bench as opposed to starting. “Basketball is basketball whether it’s coming off the bench or walking out of the stands. It’s all basketball so I just come out and play.”

And there’s one objective when he comes out to play.

“I’m going to do what I do best: be aggressive.”