Off a steal, Tatum dished to the trailing Brown on the fast break for a thunderous jam in transition. On the next play, Brown contested a Jerami Grant three-pointer. The rebound found Tatum for the quarter’s final possession and he hit a side step three at the buzzer.
After being drafted #3 in consecutive years, this season seems to be the culmination of the Celtics commitment to Brown and Tatum, with Jaylen signing a four-year, $115 million contract before the start of the regular season and Tatum looking like a max level player next summer.
The dynamic duo flexed their muscles Friday night against one of the league’s best teams. Tatum lead the Celtics with 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting (hitting half of his eight three-pointers, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. Brown was equally efficient with 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists.
What’s been impressive this season and what has fueled their simultaneous rise has been the work they’ve put in to fill the holes in their respective games. “Balance. I think that’s it. Just balance,” Brown said of their improvement.
“It comes with maturity and growth. As we get older, we see different spots, where to be better at, where to manage the game, take care of the basketball, where to assert yourself. As we get older, we figure out some of those little things that we might not have known when we first came in.”
For Jaylen, many had questioned his inconsistent shot and handle and doubted that he’d every become an impact playmaker on the wing. To answer his skeptics, he’s tightened his dribble and added an array of moves to his already elite athleticism. He’s now shooting 38.5% from behind the arc, but understands who he is on the floor and also what his running mate likes to do.
“I guess we feed off each other. We got, ya know, kinda different games, kinda opposite, but it makes sense,” Brown said. “It’s like fire and ice.” And later, “JT is kinda more laid back. I like to get to the basket. JT likes to step back and shoot jumpers. We both mix it up a lot. Sometimes I shoot threes, sometimes he gets to the basket like today. For the most part, we kinda like polar opposites.”
Through twenty-one games, Tatum is having his roughest shooting season in Year #3. However, that hasn’t stunted his growth as an all-around player. He’s found other ways to affect the game and become an above average perimeter defender, something that’s always been Brown’s calling card. But don’t get it twisted. Tatum’s stand out talent is his offensive game. He’s steadily increased his shooting percentages every month in 2019 and developed the cold killer mentality of a clutch scorer.
After hitting a particularly difficult step back 3 with the shot clock expiring, Tatum remained cool and collected. “That’s me staring off into space. I just be looking. That’s like my thing, trying not to get too excited. It’s my thing,” Tatum said.
Asked after the game if the pair recognizes their place in the franchise’s foundation and future, Brown didn’t shy away from the question. “Definitely, the responsibility, a lot of it is on us, so we gotta handle that accordingly each and every night. I don’t think there’s extra pressure that needs to be added to it. Just come out and play basketball and do what we’ve been doing and I think everything will take care of itself.”