Home Sports 2024 NBA Finals: Jaylen Brown has met the moments that make champions — and superstars

2024 NBA Finals: Jaylen Brown has met the moments that make champions — and superstars

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June 12, 2024; Dallas, Texas, United States; Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) reacts to the crowd during the fourth quarter of Game 3 of the 2024 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS – At some point, these superstar performances from Jaylen Brown are no longer an anomaly.

He is already established as a star, but the predominant feeling in the minds of many has been that of turnovers on the biggest stage, collapses and lack of poise when it mattered most.

But when announcements were needed, statements were made: thunderous dunks as Dallas attempted a dangerous cat-and-mouse game, and jumpers to quell a desperate Mavericks comeback late in the fourth quarter.

These moments are what make champions and Finals MVPs… and superstars. Brown’s rise to this next level, this shrinking space, aligns with the maturity of the Boston Celtics, who are now 48 minutes away from claiming their 18th championship.

Number 7 once again put its stamp on these playoffs, in these NBA Finals. The finishing touches, the moments in which the series can be won or extended, have belonged to Brown, with further proof of this new man in Boston’s 106-99 victory in Game 3 at the American Airlines Center on Wednesday at night.

The Celtics have a 3-0 lead and no team in NBA history has come back from such a deficit.

Both Brown and Jayson Tatum reached the 30-point mark, with Brown adding eight rebounds and eight assists, while Tatum scored 31 with six rebounds and five assists. For the series, Brown is averaging 24.3 points, 6 rebounds and 5.6 assists.

Both, unbeknownst to the other, said the exact same statement when referencing their confirmed poise: “Experience is the best teacher.”

They’ve had enough collective experiences, enough failures and disappointments to not be the team to fold, even though it looked like they would return to their old form when the Mavericks went on a 20-2 run to win. turns the night into a potentially dangerous night.

But they found their center, even though their tallest player, Kristaps Porziņģis, was out with another injury. Brown had the game in his hands, his team leading by two. In the past, it seemed like he wandered down the road without a plan and then panicked when bodies got in his way.

But when he went left, he recovered: he faked once and then took a calm shot while Luka Dončić, from the bench, tried to give the attempt some English so that it went anywhere but the bottom.

Dončić was not on the court one of the few times in his career because he did not show the poise that Brown played with, committing a foul in the fourth quarter, and Brown had been there before.

The jumper was accurate, took the air out of the building and allowed the Celtics to exhale with a minute left and a four-point lead. With Dončić out of him, Kyrie Irving had all the weight on his thin shoulders and, as spectacular as he was with a game-high 35 points, there wasn’t much he could do.

There is more than Brown and Tatum on the Celtics’ side, but Brown has made a leap.

He signed the largest contract in NBA history, but heard about his left hand.

He came into this season wanting to make All-Defense, but couldn’t crack the top 10. He didn’t even make this season’s crowded All-NBA team, the player with the most votes who didn’t receive the honor.

“So when you have that kind of mentality, you’re going to be able to handle every situation that the game throws at you,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “He puts himself in every situation he sees in a game. He uses six, seven, eight coaches a day, and every situation on both ends of the floor, he gets into it.

“And that’s how you have to grow up, become vulnerable and into the things that make you uncomfortable, and he does that.”

All that will change, because recognition and respect are being taken away game by game.

“I think there’s definitely been some growth, but I think this team has trusted me, especially in these playoffs and those moments, to be who I am,” Brown said. “I felt like I was able to do it just by being patient and prepared. Those opportunities presented themselves and I was able to take advantage of them.”

The Celtics look like the dominant team in this series, and they’ve weathered storms and runs from Dončić and Irving to stay close enough to survive, and then exercise discernment when the game hits high-leverage moments.

The Mavericks continued that exciting run but never took the lead, a testament to the Celtics building a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter after absorbing the first blows in the gut. It is Brown who defends Dončić to the point of exhaustion and frustration; It is Dončić who has had poor defense in this series, while Brown has the physical and mental stamina to keep going and not be deterred by outside forces.

Brown is the one who provides the force: dunking PJ Washington and Josh Green when they couldn’t close the door on their third-quarter drive with seconds left, capping a 15-point quarter. It felt like he was saying, “Game over, series over, don’t bother showing up on Friday night,” with the end of him.

“I mean, how can I explain Jaylen? The guy just has a growth mindset,” Mazzulla said. “He just wants to get better. He longs to improve. He is not afraid to confront his weaknesses on the court.”

Their weaknesses, the Celtics’ weaknesses, were on display two years ago in the Finals, when Golden State displayed some veteran experience that overturned a 2-1 deficit. His weaknesses are glaring now, even during this dominant 15-2 playoff run, due to pure math.

The let-it-fly mentality means they’re shooting more 3s (46) than 2s (36), and even if you match their efficiency, your production won’t. It means you’ll feel like you’re playing well as an opponent, but the deficit grows and grows as the Celtics tighten the screws.

Sooner or later you won’t be able to keep up or they’ll let you back in.

But they’ve gotten closer and are changing the narrative about who they are, 48 minutes at a time.

“Before we got here, I thought they were good enough to win,” Jrue Holiday told Yahoo Sports. “They had the talent, they had the superstars, they had role players and they have always been an organization that has always had a chance.”

Holiday affectionately calls Brown “a dog” and, even if literal, he’s been barking all over the floor this series, all over the Mavericks smell.

“It’s been great to go against them and play against them and fight and be the ultimate competitor,” Holiday told Yahoo Sports. “Being on this side, I like this side better. (He’s) taking control, taking on different games and situations, really just seeing how it develops to this point.”

It’s building to an undeniable crescendo, where it could all come together on Friday night, rather than see it reach its inevitable, disappointing collapse.

Because Brown won’t allow it.

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