By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Jaylen Brown can now enjoy an adult beverage, legally. Jayson Tatum is still a few years away from partaking in those grown up festivities.
The fact the two youngins are making such a gigantic impact on the Celtics despite being so green makes it that much more impressive.
The Celtics were counting on their trio of established stars heading into the season, but without Gordon Hayward alongside Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, Boston has turned to their young duo to step up. Not only have they stepped up, but Brown and Tatum already look like stars themselves, making Danny Ainge look like a genius in the process.
The youngsters led the way in Boston’s 110-89 thumping of the New York Knicks on Tuesday night, with Brown dropping a game-high 23 points and Tatum, still a teenager, netting a career-high 22. They became the first Celtics teammates under the age of 22 to score 20-plus points in the same game, further cementing themselves as two of Boston’s most reliable scorers in the early going of the new season.
The baby C’s combined for 30 first-half points on Tuesday, with Brown scoring 13 in the first quarter alone. He tormented the Knicks on the defensive end too, blocking Enes Kanter early in the game and then following that up with a nice strip on Courtney Lee a few minutes later. The swipe led to Brown’s biggest highlight of the evening, a sweet reverse jam for the birthday boy:
The new 21-year-old wouldn’t say if he would enjoy in a libation after the game, meeting the question with a grin and “no comment.” Brown certainly celebrated on the floor, blowing out the candles on the Knicks early as Boston cruised to the easy win.
While Brown did most of his damage in the first quarter, Tatum took over in the second. He scored the C’s first 10 points of the frame, and like Brown, his defense led to easy buckets on the other end. Tatum blocked Lee from behind in the opening minutes of the quarter, ran the length of the floor and soared through the air to finish off an alley oop from Terry Rozier.
Tatum did it all in his monster stretch, dropping a pair of threes and hitting a nice turnaround as he built Boston’s lead up to 17. He hit nine of his 15 shots overall, including four of six from downtown, while filling up the stat sheet with four rebounds, four steals, two blocks and a pair of assists. The two blocks and four steals were just as impressive as the offensive output, as Tatum made great use of his massive wingspan. His offense has been impressive, but the 19-year-old’s disruptive defense (especially Tuesday night) is making an impact as well.
The one caveat of Tuesday night was it came against the New York Knicks, one of three winless teams in the NBA. But Boston’s veterans know they’re watching the beginning of something special with Brown and Tatum on the floor.
“They’re here, and they’re making their mark right now,” said forward Al Horford.
“They’re taking big strides every single day in practice, and they’re showing it in the games,” added guard Kyrie Irving. “It’s still early, but you’ve got to give them credit. They’re coming out ready to play and they’re demanding a lot of themselves, which I really appreciate.”
“They’re going to be their own worst critic, but I’m their biggest fan over here,” said Irving.
The steps Brown has taken since his rookie year, when he averaged just 17 minutes, to this year is nothing short of amazing. He’s averaging 18.8 points per game over the first four contests of the year, shooting an impressive 48 percent from the floor. Beyond the numbers, he’s become a leader on the court. Despite the Celtics holding a 21-point lead as they went into the locker room, Brown upset about Boston’s lack of execution before halftime. He’s never satisfied, and said he’s always seeking perfection from himself and his team.
Did we mention Brown is only 21? Before the game, he sounded more like a 10-year veteran than a young pup in his second season, relishing in his new role as a leader.
“I talked to coach and my responsibility is a little bit bigger,” he said “They ask a lot of me, and I ask a lot of myself. This is what I asked for, so I’m not complaining now that it’s here.”
It may sound tough, but Brown does his best to keep a level head despite the success just over a year into his NBA career. He met with famous soccer player Thierry Henry over the offseason, who offered some great advice to the budding star.
“I tell myself that every day,” Brown said of staying grounded. “[Henry] was like, ‘Treat every day like everyone is on the same line.’ Every day I have to come out and show why I’m me or separate myself or just be the best I can every day. No days off.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick would be proud with the newly minted adult.
Brown and Tatum took a bit of a backseat to Boston’s veterans in the second half, as Horford beat up on Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis (holding the mythical creature to just 12 points) and Irving quietly poured in 20 points. The Knicks didn’t pose much of a challenge to anyone on Tuesday night, so it will be much more impressive if Boston’s young duo can repeat their performances on Thursday night when the Celtics seek some revenge against the Bucks in Milwaukee.
We had a good idea that the future was bright in Boston with Brown and Tatum, and they were supposed to have the opportunity to slowly grow behind the trio of stars Ainge assembled in the offseason. Hayward’s injury threw a wrench into those plans, but Brown and Tatum are both taking advantage of their increased minutes and responsibilities in the wake of that injury.
The Celtics’ bright future is now making a major impact in the present.