By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It wasn’t quite a dunk, or a layup, but Jaylen Brown provided one heck of a highlight in the NBA’s first game of the new season.
Joel Embiid can be an intimidating force on the defensive end, a 7-foot behemoth planted in the paint ready to swat away any meager attempt by an opponent. But Brown and the Celtics did not back down from Embiid Tuesday night, and even made it a point to go right at Philadelphia’s big man in Boston’s 105-87 victory.
As the Celtic started to pull away from Philly midway through the fourth quarter, Brown decided to deliver an exclamation point on the contest. A charging Brown took a feed from Kyrie Irving and then took flight, launching himself right at Mount Embiid. As Embiid stretched out his arms to block the attempt, Brown wound up for a ferocious dunk.
Embiid ended up blocking the dunk attempt, but the block did very little. Brown threw it forward with such force that the ball banked in off the backboard. It looked more like a video game glitch then an actual play, but that’s what we’ve come to expect from human cheat code Jaylen Brown.
It took a lot of skill, a lot of luck, and a lot of guts from Brown. Whatever you want to call the basket, it was two points for the Celtics — and a hand-delivered message from Brown.
The play itself was pretty epic, but it’s nothing compared to the epic staredown Brown gave Embiid as he made his way down the floor. While going right at Philadelphia’s bastion of defense showed his fearlessness, Brown’s post-play glare is a sure sign that Boston’s young stars will not be intimidated this season.
Brown finished with 12 points, and he wasn’t the only Celtic to pick on Embiid. Terry Rozier came out of nowhere to swat away an Embiid shot as he tried to back down Aron Baynes in the first quarter. And Jayson Tatum continued his dominance of the 76ers with a game-high 23 points, capped off with a fadeaway banker that he drained right in Embiid’s face. Instead of a stare, Tatum gave Embiid a wink as he got back on defense.
Embiid still put up his usual numbers, scoring 23 points and pulling down 10 rebounds, but the Celtics made him work for everything. To his credit, Embiid even tipped his cap to the Celtics after their win. Having lost seven of their last nine matchups with the Celtics, Embiid said there isn’t much of a rivalry between the two teams.
On a night where Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving looked rusty in their returns, the Celtics were once again lifted by their young stars. While they may still be kids, Boston’s youngsters are not going to back down from any fight.