Why Jaylen Brown could be Celtics' most important piece

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It’s pretty clear at this point the Celtics have five essential players. Each offers something different, but there’s no need to highlight all of them right now. Especially since four of them get plenty of attention.

Though the one always manages to fly under the radar. Jaylen Brown.

Part of the reason is the way he began his Celtics career. Then Jayson Tatum’s start in Boston impacted the perception of Brown. Of course, there’s last year, too.

But Brown has changed — a lot. And his 31-point performance in Boston’s 112-93 win over the Heat on Wednesday should’ve gotten that point across. (For a complete recap of the Celtics' win, click here.)

Now, his point total and final shooting percentages (10-for-20 from the field, 5-for-9 from three) were great. There was more to Brown’s night, though, than his contribution to the win.

JAYLEN BROWN ---------- pic.twitter.com/hRXOazDOfx

— Dan Greenberg (@StoolGreenie) December 5, 2019

He could not buy a bucket to start the game. Brown opened up 1-for-6 from the floor and finished the first quarter 2-for-7 (0-for-2 from three).

But the Celtics kept going to him — because there wasn’t much of a choice.

“Kemba (Walker) makes you make decisions. Kemba and Jayson both hit multiple shots off screens early,” Brad Stevens said. “So then (the Heat) start blitzing. And when they start blitzing, it’s on those guys to get rid of the ball quickly and find the next right guy. The beneficiaries are going to be the guys standing, spotting up.”

And because teams are blitzing Walker and Tatum so often, Brown is getting more comfortable with his teammates turning to him. He’s gotten better at identifying what the defense is giving him and exposing their weaknesses with greater consistency.

“The last few games, people have been blitzing the same way,” Brown said. “So just being aggressive out of it and trying to make plays and hopefully they continue to make plays. But, if they stop, then it will open up guys like Kemba and JT on some of those screens.”

Keep in mind: understanding when to be aggressive hasn’t always been one of Brown’s strengths.

So, on Wednesday, Brown adjusted mid-game and continued to put into practice what he’s learning from game to game. Additionally, he did not back down against Jimmy Butler when the All-NBA forward was in his face.

Jaylen got Jimmy pic.twitter.com/Egm0tIBahq

— Dan Greenberg (@StoolGreenie) December 5, 2019

The rest of the Heat slowed down after the first quarter. As much as the Celtics did look better from the second quarter on — typical — Miami’s schedule clearly caught up to them tonight.

However, Butler was still a handful on offense (37 points) and kept up the defensive pressure against Brown — especially when the Celtics wing got hot. Yet, Brown was not fazed.

Furthermore, Brown is doing all of this while Gordon Hayward is out. When Hayward comes back, he, Walker and Tatum will be the top-3 priorities for defenses, not Brown. He’s showing he can expose that approach.

The Celtics are now 8-0 at home after the win against Miami. Their home winning streak is the franchise's longest to start a season since they won 12 in a row to open 2007-08.

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