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LAS VEGAS – Jaylen Brown looked like a 19-year-old with star potential Tuesday afternoon against the Dallas Mavericks.
Brown was relentless in attacking the rim. He was a menace on defense. He was a consistent presence on the glass.
He was, in the end, a key driving force behind an 88-82 victory by the Boston Celtics.
“I felt a little more explosive today,” a modest Brown said after the game. “My first step felt a little quicker so I was able to get to the free-throw line.”
That he did, and he did so at a superstar rate – again.
For the second time in four Summer League appearances, the No. 3 overall pick attempted 17 free throws in a game. He converted 12 of those attempts Tuesday afternoon after shooting 11-of-17 from the line back on July 4 in Salt Lake City.
Such flashes of greatness have been positive signs for Brown and the C’s. However, Brown would be the first to admit that his impact between those two performances was limited, at best.
A hyperextended right knee left him out of the lineup for Boston’s final two games in Utah, and then he totaled only 14 points on 3-of-18 shooting to go along with five rebounds during his first two games in Las Vegas.
Chatter had been growing louder and louder regarding Brown’s underwhelming play. Then Tuesday arrived, and everything clicked.
Brown surpassed the totals of his previous two games combined by scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 boards against Dallas. He also ripped away four steals to lead all players, and he did all of this in only 24 minutes of action.
Much of his success on Tuesday, as head coach Jamie Young indicated, was predicated upon the Celtics getting the ball into his hands in the right situations. That’s something they failed to do during the past two games but did regularly against Dallas.
“I think anytime Jaylen can catch the ball with a live dribble and catch it and drive it, he’s good,” Young said. “Anytime he gets out in transition, those types of things.”
Still, it is on Brown to capitalize on such situations and use his elite athleticism to his favor. He did so over and over Tuesday afternoon.
Brown played with aggression almost every time he caught the ball, something the coaching staff has been urging him to do since minicamp began 12 days ago.
“We’ve told him: “Straight-line drives. Don’t mess around. Catch it and rip and go and drive a straight line,’” Young explained.
Dallas had no answers for Brown once he put his head down and attacked. Not even second-year forward Justin Anderson – who is built like a tank and is known for his defensive skills – could slow Brown down.
Brown’s performance was well-received by the Cox Pavillion crowd. Part of the reason why Danny Ainge invested the third overall pick in Brown was because of the youngster’s athleticism. That athleticism was on full display against the Mavs.
Brown drew oohs and ahhs from the crowd on multiple occasions, highlighted by two terrific offensive plays.
First, he took a pass from Demetrius Jackson along the baseline and rose up for a loud, full-extension dunk in the face of Dallas’ 7-foot-2 center, Satnam Singh.
Then, midway through the second quarter, Brown backed his defender down from the mid-post and sank a high-arcing jumper off of a turnaround move toward the baseline. The play looked eerily similar to Kobe Bryant’s go-to move, and it looked as if Brown had done it a million times.
“I love the post game,” he said when asked about that play. “When all else fails, that’s where I feel the most comfortable at. Anytime I can catch it down there and I can make a move and get to my comfort spot, then I know it’s going in.”
Brown displayed similar confidence on defense and on the glass.
Although Young says that he’d like to see Brown get more into the ball, the rookie was a difference-maker on defense. His four steals propelled Boston’s transition game, and he also showcased his versatility on switches onto guards. Brown’s high-rising rebounds were also impossible to ignore.
Add all of Brown’s doings together and you have one heck of a performance by a talented young prospect who showed flashes of star potential – potential teammate Terry Rozier knows will eventually be fulfilled.
“I said from Day 1, he’s going to be real great,” said Rozier, who scored a team-best 26 points and attempted 18 free throws of his own. “I even told him that once things start slowing down for him and he slows his mind down, this league is perfect for him with how athletic he can get in the lane and he can knock down shots.”
Rozier seems to believe Brown is well aware of his potential, adding, “I think he has an idea of that, and I think that’s why he has the confidence that he has.”
Brown’s confidence was on full display against Dallas, and it should now be flying as high as his dunks. He looked every bit the part of a young and talented prospect with star potential Tuesday afternoon.