Boston Celtics

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MAY 29: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics stands next to Jaylen Brown #7 during the third quarter against the Miami Heat in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 29, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

  • Well, as is often the case, the end was ugly. But assuming there was still any doubt, the Celtics may have secured an extremely valuable answer last night that should simplify any decision-making for you or for them entering a particularly important offseason.

    Without Jayson Tatum to shield him, Jaylen Brown isn’t good enough.

    At least not yet.

    Just 26 seconds into last night’s climactic Game 7 between the Celtics and Miami Heat in Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals, Tatum went to the basket, leapt and was fouled, then rolled his left ankle when he landed on the foot of Miami defender Gabe Vincent. Just like that, Tatum was at least partly compromised for the majority of the night – he did play nearly 42 minutes – and the Celtics were without the same explosive player who scored 51 points in a historic Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers earlier this month.

    As soon as Tatum went down, Boston issued a collective gasp.

  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MAY 29: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics grabs his ankle during the first quarter against the Miami Heat in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 29, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – MAY 29: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics grabs his ankle during the first quarter against the Miami Heat in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 29, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

  • So what happened after that? Brown was forced to handle the ball more as the night progressed – Tatum’s condition seemed to worsen, particularly after halftime – and the results were ghastly. Brown committed eight turnovers, the second-most for a Game 7 in NBA playoff history. (Donovan Mitchell had nine for Utah against Denver three years ago.) Brown also also went 8-for-23 shooting and 1-for-9 from 3-point distance in the 19-point defeat. He was a minus-17 for the game, worst among all Celtics starters.

    After the game, even Brown acknowledged the failure.

  • Jaylen Brown had eight turnovers.

  • You can hear the full audio exchange here:

  • For those who who still believe that Brown is the preferred option over Tatum, your best argument today probably goes something like this: it was only one game. Only it wasn’t. Brown played poorly throughout the series, finishing with more turnovers (25) than assists (24). He shot .163 from 3-point distance and shot .667 from the free-throw line. Beyond that – in the NBA, especially – singular playoff performances mean far more than any collective regular-season totals because they often come against the best competition when everyone on the floor is most engaged.

  • To his credit, Brown made no excuses following the defeat. The following exchange came on the first question asked of him when he took the podium last night:

  • Jaylen Brown.

  • So why is all of this important today? In the wake of last night’s defeat, the Celtics appear to be at a significant crossroads. Having been named to the All-NBA second team this season, Brown is now eligible for the “supermax” extension of five years, $295 million, a contract that would begin in the 2024-25 season. (He has one year remaining on his current deal.) Jayson Tatum will be eligible for an even bigger deal (five years, $318 million) a year from now. If the Celtics deem that change is necessary to their payroll structure or roster – or both – Brown now seems the obvious choice to go. A more measured alternative could involve the departure of someone like Marcus Smart, though that would do far less to the Celtics’ payroll structure in terms of savings.

    The bottom line? Jaylen Brown may have done more than just play a significant role in the Celtics’ defeat last night. He also may have fumbled away a massive potential payday and any real chance of being the true centerpiece¬† of a franchise.

    You can see all eight of Brown’s turnovers – many of them ugly – here:

     

Sign me up for the 98.5 The Sports Hub email newsletter!

Get the latest Boston sports news and analysis, plus exclusive on-demand content and special giveaways from Boston's Home for Sports, 98.5 The Sports Hub.

*
*
By clicking "Subscribe" I agree to the website's terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.