By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — With the Celtics in need of a big shot in the final moments of Sunday night’s tilt against the Pistons, they got it from an unlikely source.
It’s usually Isaiah Thomas who knocks down the big buckets in the fourth quarter, but he found a pair of Pistons draped all over him at the top of the key as he looked to drive into the paint and erase Boston’s one-point deficit with less than a minute on the clock. Thomas dished it off to Al Horford, who took two steps before sending a pass to rookie Jaylen Brown, who was uncovered in the corner.
The moment wasn’t too big for the rookie, as he calmly drained the biggest basket of his young career. Brown quickly threw up the shot as Marcus Morris closed in on him, sinking a triple as the Detroit forward made contact. The ball fell through the nylon as Brown hit the floor, giving Boston a 98-96 lead with 37.6 seconds left. The key basket, which turned into a five-point play after Brown missed his free throw but Marcus Smart hit a pair of freebies after being fouled on the ensuing offensive rebound, propelled the Celtics to a 104-98 win in Detroit.
“I was just waiting in the corner,” Brown told reporters after the game. “I told myself, if he passes, I’m going to shoot it.”
“He put it up because it’s the right thing to do at that time,” said Boston head coach Brad Stevens. “Doesn’t matter when the moment is, doesn’t matter if it’s the first quarter, fourth quarter. If you’re open on a catch-and-shoot shot and somebody made a play for you, you have to shoot it.”
Brown, the third overall pick last June, finished the night with 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting to go with five rebounds and a pair of steals. He’s seen his playing time increase lately, in part due to Avery Bradley’s lingering Achilles injury and Boston’s lack of depth at small forward. But the 20-year-old has the confidence of Stevens and is earning his time of the floor. Brown has averaged 9.9 points per game in eight February contests, hitting 47 percent of his shots and 44 percent from downtown.
“I’ve worked on my shot because that’s what people have been critiquing me on my whole life,” Brown said. “I think I’ve gotten a lot better, and I’m going to continue to get better at it. I like to get to the basket, but some of those shots I do have to let fly.”
Brown wasn’t perfect on Sunday, finishing with four turnovers while missing two of his three free throws, and it was typical Brown fashion to hit that big shot only to miss the free throw a few seconds later. But he hit the biggest shot of the night when the Celtics needed it most, and if the rookie can continue to make the most of his uptick in minutes (he’s averaged 25.5 minutes per game in February), he will continue to see the floor as the Celtics continue their trek towards the postseason.