Boston Celtics fans are used to Kyrie Irving leading the scoring charge on most nights, but Friday’s 104-96 Game 3 win over the Indiana Pacers was not one of those instances.
Jaylen Brown took the reins right out the gate, going 4-of-4 from the floor in the first quarter, including a perfect 3-for-3 from deep. He was a big part of Boston’s red-hot opening frame, where they shot 66.7 percent and led 41-28 after the opening 12 minutes.
Even when the offense began to falter, specifically in the third quarter, Brown continued to hit outside shots, which was essential to keeping Boston afloat after the Pacers closed the gap.
Being able to turn to Brown as an offensive contributor opens up a world of flexibility for Brad Stevens. In stretches where Kyrie Irving is on the bench or cold, Brown has proven to be another option to step up and fill the void alongside Jayson Tatum. In Friday’s third quarter, Irving was 1-of-5 in 10 minutes, but Brown and Tatum combined for 13 points on 62.5 percent shooting. In an ugly stretch, this was huge.
Game 3 was Brown’s ninth career postseason game with 20-plus points. Over the last two years, Brown has posted double-figure scoring in 18 of his 21 playoff games played.
Brown was the first Celtics player to score 20-plus points on 88 percent shooting since Raef LaFrentz did so on April 23, 2005 against, you guessed it, the Pacers, according to Celtics stats.
If this is the new normal for playoff-Jaylen Brown, then the Celtics should be in great shape moving forward.
Here are some other notes from Friday’s Celtics-Pacers Game 3:
— Boston now is in complete control of the series, and will look to complete the sweep Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on the road.
— The Celtics closed out the final 5:45 of Friday’s win with their opening night lineup of Irving, Brown, Tatum, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford.
Heading into the 2018-19 season, this group was expected to be Boston’s death lineup, but, as we all know, things did not go as planned. They saw their first postseason action in Game 2 and entered Game 3 with the best offensive rating out of any Celtics’ lineup that had played four-plus minutes.
Irving commented on the lineup seeing more action together, telling reporters in Indianapolis that they’re trending in the right direction.
— Al Horford seems like he quickly got over whatever illness he had heading into Game 2.
Horford finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists, one block and one steal in Game 3. He also had a game-high net rating of 19.9.
— Irving posted his first postseason double-double in a Celtics uniform with 19 points and 10 assists (plus five rebounds).
Irving was tremendous down the stretch, scoring at will, while also running a great two-man game with Horford. All-around performances like Friday’s are exactly what the Celtics love to see out of their all-star point guard.
— Tatum continued his solid playoff performance with 18 points and seven rebounds in Game 3.
In the first three games of this postseason, the 21-year-old is averaging 19.7 points on 53 percent shooting.