Celtics Credit Brown’s Leadership for Recent Energy Shift

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics have displayed a noticeable shift of energy of late, as they’ve rebounded from a difficult December to leading the NBA in scoring differential over the past month.

Many factors have tied into such a shift, and following Monday night’s 122-92 win over the Miami Heat at TD Garden, Al Horford and Marcus Smart revealed one of them to be the developing leadership of Jaylen Brown.

“You have to commit and be more focused than ever, game to game,” Horford said of Boston’s mindset over its past several matchups. “Right now in our locker room, Jaylen is the one setting the tone for that. He’s really keeping everyone focused, telling us we need to be focused, need to be locked in.”

The Celtics had trouble staying locked in for a full 48 minutes throughout the first couple of months of the season, but such has not been the case recently. Boston has won four of its last five games and those four victories have come with an average margin of 30.5 points.

Since Dec. 31, the C’s have beaten eight teams by double-figures, resulting in a scoring differential of +156 over the past month. The 40-win Phoenix Suns, whom the Celtics beat by 15 points on New Year’s Eve, are in a distant second place during that same span at +136.

“There’s a real sense of urgency in our group,” Horford noted.

And much of that has to do with Brown’s vocal persistence.

Marcus Smart relayed to Celtics.com that Brown has been telling the team to “just stay with it, stay connected, stay positive, and stay really, really focused.”

Smart added of his backcourt mate, “When we're going through walk-through, he's actually talking more, and that's why we've been asking for him to get out of his comfort zone on that end. He’s been doing a really good job, saying all the right things when he's in the film room watching the film, making the right reads and calls, and letting us know. So that's progression, it’s something that he has to continue to progress with, and he’s doing a great job.”

Not only has Brown been talking the talk, but he has also been walking the walk. Throughout the month of January, he averaged 26.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game, while shooting 48.1 percent from the field, 37.3 percent from 3-point range, and 83.3 percent from the free-throw line. He also scored the fourth-most total points in the entire NBA during that span (418), trailing only Phily's Joel Embiid (476), Memphis' Ja Morant (437), and Denver's reigning MVP Nikola Jokic (425).

Brown began the month with a bang on Jan. 2, scoring a career-high 50 points in a win over the Orlando Magic. And he finished the month on another high note, scoring a game-high 29 points in Monday night’s win over the first-place Miami Heat.

While fans have seen Brown’s scoring impact first-hand either from their seats inside the arena or from their seats inside their living room, they have not seen the impact he has made inside Boston’s locker room.

“It's one thing for him to go out there and just do it with his play,” Smart noted. “But also to be able to see the game and be able to coach not only himself, but us, and be able to call out things that he sees. As a player, to develop on that end, it helps not only himself, but it helps us as well. And we’re going to continue to encourage it.”

Having such encouragement from his teammates to step up as a locker-room leader is helping Brown to develop into a more complete player on and off the court. In the process, the Celtics have shown encouraging signs of growth, as they’ve followed Brown’s lead in being locked in on a more consistent basis of late.

“And that's just only going to continue to make him better and his team better,” Smart concluded.

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