This has been a weird postseason for rookie Jaylen Brown.
He saw first quarter action in game one of the Boston Celtics first round series against the Chicago Bulls and he actually played well across his three minutes in that opening frame, knocking down a three pointer and snagging a rebound. But his production started to fall off a cliff starting in the second quarter of that game and Brad Stevens had relegated him to strictly garbage time minutes by the time game three rolled around. That seemed to be the plan heading into the second round as Brown stayed glued to the bench for three and a half quarters of action but with a lot of the team in foul trouble, Stevens turned to his 20-year old rookie for the biggest minutes of his young professional career.
Boston opened the final quarter with a 15 point lead but it was quickly disappearing. Brown entered the game with 6:09 remaining and the lead down to just four, but it seemed like you blinked and Boston was back up by double-figures.
Al Horford – who scored nine points, grabbed three rebounds and dished out two assists all in the final eight minutes of action – knocked down a three ball and it was Brown hitting a corner three of his own on the very next possession. The former Pac-12 Freshman of the Year would then get an assist on the next trip down the floor when he found Jae Crowder open from beyond the arc.
Brown posted a final stat line of five points on 2-for-3 shooting to go along with two rebounds, an assist and a +8 rating in his six minutes of action as Boston wound up running away with it in the end.
Foul trouble across the board is what ultimately led to this move; Avery Bradley finished the game with five while Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier all had four by the end of the afternoon. So while this brilliant decision wasn’t a product of Stevens thinking to himself “man, we could really use the 20-year old kid I benched two weeks ago to give us a spark” when he saw the lead shrink to a two possession game, it still took some stones to make the call.
There were other options on the table. Gerald Green – who seemingly jumped the line to start over Brown when the team shook things up against the Bulls – didn’t have a foul all game and neither did Jonas Jerebko. Both men had played at various points throughout the game and general logic would tell you to go with the veterans with playoff experience who haven’t been benched yet, but Stevens went against what general logic would tell you and it turned out to be a phenomenal move; even if that decision was made a tad easier by Green and Jerebko combining for zero points, zero rebounds, zero assists and one turnover between the two of them.
While Stevens chose to go away from his veterans, it was Brown who looked like he had been exposed to playoff basketball at the NBA level for a decade by making sound decisions on the offensive end of the floor to help the Celtics pull away.
Nobody knows if the starting lineup will change once again. Green was limited to just seven minutes in what was his fifth straight start and while some might disagree with giving up on him after just one bad game, that’s kind of what Stevens did to Brown with his general spot in the rotation after just one playoff game so fans have already seen that one bad game is all you need in order to lose the trust of the coach.
Brown had his moments throughout the season but this might be the brightest sign of them all. Some of the most experienced players in the league might not be able to make a poised six minute push like that after being nothing more than a spectator and it only continues to make the “fans” who booed him on draft night look even more foolish.