Boston Celtics

By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com

Second-year pro Jaylen Brown has a certain swagger about him. He walks the walk, and he talks to talk.

But most importantly, and with the Celtics up 2-0 in their third-round series with the Cavaliers and sitting just two wins away from their first NBA Finals appearance in eight years, the 21-year-old Brown has had no problem backing it all up.

“He’s able to back it up,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said of Brown. “You can talk as much crap as you want.”

It’s true.

In addition to being a difficult matchup given his versatility and size, the 6-foot-7 Georgia native is averaging  17.8 points (second-most among Celtics), 5.2 rebounds (fifth-most among Celtics), and a 5.1 plus/minus (third-best on the Celtics) per game this postseason. His 49.5 field goal percentage is the third-best on the Celtics in the playoffs, and his 42.3 percentage from behind the arc is the second-best behind Aron Baynes. Brown, of course, averages almost five more three-point attempts per game than Baynes, so there’s most definitely a sample size issue at play here.

Brown has been especially threatening through the first two games of this series, with a team-leading 23 points per game through the first two games of the third round. The only players averaging more points through the first two games of the Conference Finals in both the East and West? LeBron, Houston’s James Harden, and the Warriors’ Kevin Durant.

Not the worst company for a player some considered a ‘long-term project’ when drafted by the C’s at No. 3 in 2016. And given the way he called out LeBron before the start of the Eastern Conference Finals, he almost had to do something like this.

“The more experience you go through and the more time you spend on the floor and the more situations you see, the more confident I’ve gotten,” Brown offered following Thursday’s practice in Cleveland. “I’m a pretty confident guy, but I feel like during this postseason my confidence has reached a new ceiling, and it’s just going up and up as we speak.

“I don’t really feel like there’s nothing I can’t do on the floor, just a matter of doing it.”

But just how does Brown needle his opponents when feeling this confident?

“It’s just things just from, you can’t guard me, to the flexing the pose, to calling people little one and things like that,” Smart said of Brown’s taunting and confidence on the court. “When a guy is doing that and he backs it up, it kind of gets into your head, you know what, I don’t really know if I can guard this guy. You know, that’s an interesting part of the game that a lot of good players understand. The mental game is just as much important as the physical.”

This has been especially telling in a series featuring LeBron, who is one of the NBA’s top assassins, especially when pushed.

Instead of letting James dictate how this series was going to be played, Brown has essentially flipped the script and been the one that’s done all the pushing through the first 96 minutes of action in this series, as he has consistently used his speed and athleticism advantages to force his way into favorable mismatches towards the basket.

Brown has not even given us a hint that he’s shying away from the challenge of going against the 33-year-old James.

“Why should I?” Brown said when asked about his ability to not get discouraged by his matchup with LeBron. “The stage is set for all of us to do something spectacular. LeBron has been to The Finals [seven] straight times. He’s a great player. But we want to win, and we want to be the team that does win it and gets to The Finals. We’ve got a bunch of young guys trying to make names for themselves in this league. Why not come out and play hard? Everybody says we’re playing with house money anyway, so why not come out with the energy level that we need and try to do something special.”

Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.