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NEW YORK – The Boston Celtics have owned the fourth quarter so far this season.
The C’s have by far the largest average fourth-quarter scoring margin in the NBA, having outscored their opponents by an average of 4.9 points during the final frame. The next-closest team is Oklahoma City with a plus-3.3.
As a result, four Celtics sit among the top seven players in total fourth-quarter plus/minus rating, including Avery Bradley (fourth with a plus-48), Terry Rozier (fifth with a plus-46) and Marcus Smart (seventh with a plus-43).
The name that sits atop that list for Boston may be surprising.
Rookie Jaylen Brown.
Brown has accumulated a total plus/minus rating of plus-52 during 81 fourth-quarter minutes. The only player above him is Russell Westbrook, who has a plus-67 during 98 fourth-quarter minutes.
When asked if he was surprised by this stat Wednesday afternoon before taking on the Brooklyn Nets, Brown responded cool, calm and collected, “No. It doesn’t.”
“I don’t pay attention to the numbers,” he added. “I just try to play basketball and let everything else figure out itself.”
Brown seems to be figuring things out pretty well so far, and that’s what’s given Brad Stevens the confidence to throw the young forward into many situations.
“He’s got a lot of things that he’s doing well for a young guy,�� Stevens said ahead of Boston’s morning shootaround session in Manhattan. “He’s got a lot of areas to improve, but I think he’s done a really good job for just turning 20.”
Brown is currently averaging 7.3 minutes per fourth quarter, which is fourth on the team behind Bradley (8.5), Smart (8.3) and Al Horford (7.6). He’s also averaging the third-most points per fourth quarter (4.0) on the team while shooting 50.0 percent from the field during the money period.
The only Celtics players averaging more points per fourth quarter than Brown are veterans Isaiah Thomas (8.6) and Bradley (4.9).
“He’s playing with confidence, and that’s what we want Jaylen to do,” said Bradley. “He’s playing hard and playing without thinking.”
Brown’s fourth-quarter presence is particularly important at this time since fellow swingman Jae Crowder is not yet back to 100 percent after spraining his ankle a few weeks ago.
Crowder said his ankle began to “flame up” during the latter part of Monday’s game in Minnesota, but Brown stepped in during the fourth quarter and contributed greatly on the defensive end, helping Boston climb back from a 13-point deficit.
“It’s great because you never know what type of different matchups we’re going to have, and for him to get that experience right now will help us down the road,” said Crowder. “It’s good to show that so we can put him in the game and [he can] be reliable.”
Wednesday night, the Celtics will face the only team that has outscored them by double-digits during the fourth quarter this season – the Brooklyn Nets.
Brooklyn nearly battled back from a 16-point deficit on Opening Night as it outscored Boston 36-25 during the final period. The Celtics, however, were able to hold on for a 122-117 win.
The fourth quarter has been the best quarter for the Nets this season, as they hold the ninth-best scoring margin during that frame with a plus-1.6 margin.
Brown says the best way to combat Brooklyn’s late-game persistence is to match it.
“They just keep coming," he said. “So we just have to keep coming too.”
If his first 14 games serve any indication, that should not be an issue for Brown Wednesday night.