By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics won all three games that Jaylen Brown missed as the third-year guard recovered from a lower back injury.
On Thursday night, Brown joined in on the fun, returning to action with a 21-point outburst in Boston’s 128-100 victory over the New York Knicks. The 21-year-old showed no ill effects from his nasty tumble in Dallas a few weeks ago, showing his usual aggressiveness and explosiveness on the floor.
Starting the game on the bench, Brown made it clear from the second he entered that he was going to attack, attack and attack some more throughout the evening. Just 40 seconds after checking in, Brown took a feed in the left corner and plowed his way along the baseline, driving right at Knicks center Enes Kanter. He drew contact with New York’s 6-foot-11 big man to draw a foul, and put in a nifty over-the-shoulder banker. He completed the three-point play to much applause from the TD Garden crowd, a sure sign that the Jaylen Brown that Boston fans have come to know over the last three seasons is back at full speed.
That was Brown’s game throughout his 25 minutes on the floor. He showed no trepidation when going to the hoop, often going right at two or three defenders. He had just one thing in mind throughout Thursday night’s contest, and never let up.
“Be aggressive,” he said. “I’m going to do what I do best, be aggressive. Things opened up a little bit where I continued to be aggressive and I feel like I put myself in a good spot.”
All seven of Brown’s made baskets on Thursday night came from inside the paint. That led to seven free throws for Brown, tying his career high. He remained aggressive throughout the contest, dropping eight points and dishing out a pair of assists in the fourth quarter.
Brown’s output was impressive not only for a player coming back after a two-week layoff, but for someone adjusting to life in a new role. This was the first time Brown had come off the bench during the regular season since his rookie year.
But just because he wasn’t out there for the opening tip didn’t mean Brown was about to change his approach.
“Nothing, no different from me. Basketball is basketball whether it’s coming off the bench or walking out of the stands,” he said. “It’s all basketball so you just come out and play.”
“I thought he played with great pace and purpose and made really good decisions. I didn’t think anything was forced, which sometimes, when you come off the bench, that’s one of the things you try to catch up to the game quickly,” C’s head coach Brad Stevens said after the game. “He just played the right way and [the way] we needed.”
Boston’s attack was their biggest problem during their early season struggles. They too often came out flat and fell into a big hole to start games. That hasn’t been the case during their four-game win streak, and players up and down the roster, whether in the starting five or coming off the bench, have played with a renewed sense of energy over the last two weeks.
Aggressiveness on the floor is contagious. Brown had caught that bug before going down in Dallas on Nov. 24, and on Thursday, was able to finally let loose again.