Playoff Experience is Propelling Brown, Tatum Toward Stardom

WALTHAM, Mass. – While Boston’s prized young starters learn a lot about the Playoffs, the NBA is learning a lot about them.

Going through the process of a playoff series is no small undertaking. For second-year wing Jaylen Brown and rookie forward Jayson Tatum, they’re learning the inner-workings of how to get it done.

Brown, who is 21 years old, has a leg up on his partner in crime, seeing as he has already experienced the postseason grind. Brown was a member of Boston’s squad that went five games into the Conference Finals a season ago, and with that experience came much learning. As Brad Stevens said Monday afternoon, “You learn a lot when you go through these, and I think ultimately, you probably take huge leaps and strides after the first time you go through it.”

Such appears to have been the case for Brown, who has taken leaps and strides right into the playoff spotlight this postseason.

Brown is averaging 23.8 points per game through four postseason contests, and he’s coming off a 34-point effort during Game 4 which, as Stevens said, “gave us a chance to win.” He has scored at least 30 points during two of the four games, becoming the first player of age 21 or younger who has done so a series since Derrick Rose in 2010.

Everyone knows what Derrick Rose went on to become before injuries derailed his career: an MVP.

Brown says he’s been able to reach this elite level of play because this postseason, he knew exactly what to expect.

“The atmosphere (last postseason) was such elite-level talent, and with the atmosphere of the crowd, and the intensity, and the media, the pressure of the game and things like that,” said Brown, who is averaging 37.3 minutes per game this postseason after averaging only 12.6 MPG last postseason. “So last year was kind of eye-opening to me, and this year I was a lot more prepared for it.”

Prior to Game 1, Brown did his best to prepare Tatum for what was to come, but nothing compares to the actual experience. In that respect, Tatum’s postseason is far different than Brown’s was as a rookie.

Tatum has started all four games and played at least 30 minutes during three of them. He is being relied upon as one of Boston’s go-to scorers, and as the C’s began a second-half rally during Game 4, it was Tatum who played the entire third quarter while scoring 12 of his 21 points.

The former No. 3 overall pick has seen his ups – he scored 19 points during Game 1 and 21 points during Game 4 – and his downs – he scored only four points during Game 2 – throughout this series. Throughout it all, he has quickly learned that nothing comes easy during the postseason.

“Just how tough it is,” he said of his lessons learned thus far, “and it gets tougher each and every game.”

Fortunately for Tatum and the C’s, the rookie is built for that type of challenge.

“I think that’s the good part about it,” he said of the adversity. “It brings something out of you – just an extra ounce of competitiveness and intensity.”

Brown has seen those characteristics in his teammate through the first four games against Milwaukee. Tatum has stepped up to the challenge more often than not, and as Brown relayed, that’s rare for a 20-year-old rookie.

“He’s ahead of the curve, I’ll say that for sure,” commented Brown. “Jayson has been incredible, and his learning curve has been expedited with people being out, people being hurt, things like that.”

The truth is, such is the case for both of these young players. The lengthy absences of Gordon Hayward, who missed all but the first five minutes of the season, and Kyrie Irving, who missed the final 15 games of the regular season and is out for the Playoffs, has ignited their ascension. The Celtics, the Bucks, and everyone else who has watched this series have taken notice.

Brown and Tatum have looked like stars in the making.

The only difference between these two young studs? One is in Year 2 of his playoff career, while the other is still learning the ropes as a rookie.

We’ve seen where Brown has ascended to during his second postseason. With that in mind, it’s scary to think of what might be by his side wearing No. 0 a year from now.


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