By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Wednesday night wasn’t pretty for the Boston Celtics, but the future remains bright.
The C’s dug themselves an early hole against the Cavaliers which proved to be too deep to get out of, and there wasn’t much they could hang their hat on after the 117-104 Game 1 defeat. But at least there was Jaylen Brown, who didn’t look like a 20-year-old rookie playing in his first conference finals game. The moment never seemed too big for Brown on Wednesday night, whether Brad Stevens needed him to provide some energy on offense or guard the league’s best player on defense.
While LeBron James essentially did what he wanted throughout his 38-point performance, Brown was the only Celtics player to show the ability to slow him down, even just a little bit. He didn’t back down from the fight over his 21 minutes on the floor, never once intimidated by the defending champs or the one they call “The King.”
“Not at all,” Brown confidently replied after the game when asked if he’s ever intimidated by anyone. “And I never will be.”
It’s safe to say that Celtics fans, and the Cavaliers, will be seeing plenty of Brown over the course of the series.
“He can do things that other guys can’t do, whether it’s offensive rebounding or getting to the basket or whatever the case may be,” Stevens said after the loss. “We need some of those things, so I would expect him to continue to play a large role for us in this series.”
Brown hit his first five shots on the offensive end (going 5-for-7 overall) and finished with 10 points and nine rebounds, both career playoff highs for a player averaging just 3.3 points and 1.8 rebounds in the postseason entering the game. He had a pair of dunks taken away due to offensive fouls by his teammates, buckets that could have provided that spark the team needed throughout the contest.
“We lost, so it wasn’t how I planned or expected. I just went out and played hard, left everything on the floor,” Brown told reporters. “We needed a spark so I was just trying to be aggressive and get to the basket.”
As for guarding James, who played his first playoff game against Boston when Brown was just 11 years old, it doesn’t sound like that spotlight will be too bright for a kid who can’t even legally enjoy an adult beverage until October.
“Just playing basketball; he laces his shoes up like I lace mine up. I’m just coming out playing basketball and trying to make it tough for him. That’s my job,” said Brown.
Though Brown struggled to get consistent minutes throughout the regular season, he sounds more than ready to contribute when it matters most.
“All I can do is be ready. If coach calls me, I’ll be ready to guard whoever. If it’s the water boy, I”ll guard him too. It doesn’t matter to me,” the rookie joked.
The Celtics won the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night, giving them a chance to add a top prospect like Markelle Fultz to the youngest team to make the playoffs this season. While Wednesday night’s outcome may sting for a few days, the idea of having players like Fultz and Brown leading the way for years to come makes for a very promising future for the Boston Celtics.