No one would have criticized Jaylen Brown if he was a relative non-factor Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
Brown was a day removed from his week-plus quarantine period when the Celtics opened their 2021-22 regular season against the New York Knicks. In addition to missing valuable team-building time, Brown potentially was going to be subject to diminished stamina and cardiovascular health due to his bout with COVID-19.
But Brown didn’t just overcome adversity in primetime. He had a career night.
The sixth-year pro dropped a career-high 46 points in the Celtics’ double-overtime loss to the Knicks. Brown, who set a new franchise record for most points in a season opener, led his team in minutes (45:57) and nearly had a double-double with nine rebounds to go along with six assists.
Brown never has lacked confidence since arriving to the NBA in 2016. But even he was a bit taken aback by what he did at MSG.
“I don’t know how I did it,” Brown told reporters, per Celtics.com. “I spent a lot of time in quarantine, thinking about when I was going to get back out there, just imagining, seeing the game, visualizing. And some shots fell tonight. I only had 24 hours to prepare. My breathing felt irregular but fine for the most part. Towards the end, I could feel my heartbeat through my chest.”
Brown continued: “For the most part, I felt fine, to be honest. Coming out of quarantine, playing 46 minutes, I think I did OK in terms of just physical standing. Being away from the team that much that long, it’s always like a risk of injury coming back with the high-level intensity. The guys in New York are a physical team. But I think my body held up well.”
The 24-year-old and his team will enjoy an off day Thursday before playing their home opener. The C’s on Friday will welcome the Toronto Raptors to TD Garden.