Brown paces Celtics’ win over Memphis with career-high 42 points

As Jaylen Brown likes to say, it’s a journey.
And right now for the 24-year-old Celtics forward, that journey is traversing some particularly high ground.
Brown scored a career-high 42 points on 15-for-21 shooting and tied a career high with seven 3-pointers in the Celtics’ 126-107 win over Memphis on Wednesday night.
Pitted against a Grizzlies team missing its two biggest (and injured) stars, Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson, the Celtics got just about anything they wanted, shooting 45.2% (14-for-31) from downtown over the first three quarters, before the benches emptied.
And Brown, nearing his career high in scoring, was left on the floor just long enough to get the number.
“At first I had no idea, then towards the end of the third quarter they were telling me I was right at my career high, and I gave Brad (Stevens) a wink, can I get a few more minutes, and he sent me out,” Brown said of the Celtics coach, before adding, “(I’m) trying to handle everything responsibly.”
Brown and Jayson Tatum alone had combined for 10-for-15 from downtown, and by the start of the fourth, with a 96-71 lead well in hand, both were off the floor, along with fellow starters Marcus Smart, Jeff Teague and Daniel Theis. Stevens opted for the ultra-small lineup due to the absence of Tristan Thompson.
But Thompson, resting his sore hamstring on the second night of a back-to-back, wasn’t exactly needed on a night when the Celtics hit a peak lead of 32 points.
And though it started with the Celtics’ best defensive effort of the young season, momentum built on Brown’s hot hand.
“Obviously he had his shot really going,” said Stevens. “He hit some really tough ones at the end of the second quarter, even the ones he hit in the third I thought were pretty well-contested.”
But there was a cause and effect here, according to the Celtics coach, who was curious about which team he would see on the second night of a back-to-back swing that started in Indianapolis. He’s also wondering about carryover now, with the Celtics playing another road mini-series, this time with games in Detroit on Friday and Sunday.
“I thought the energy we played with as a team led to the ball going in in a good way,” said Stevens. “We came out with the right mentality coming out of yesterday. Yesterday was a hard-fought game, first back-to-back of the year, knowing we’re heading back to the Midwest tomorrow after getting back last night. I just think there’s a lot of reasons why we could have been a little bit sloppy and we didn’t. That’s a good sign.”
And once Brown heated up, the mission seemed simple enough.
“That’s amazing. He was on fire,” said Tatum, who finished with 16 points. “When a guy’s hitting like that you have to keep feeding him.
“We’ve been playing together going on four years now. Just getting more and more of a feel for each other on the court,” he said. “I think he’s become a better shooter each and every year as the offense continues to grow. Obviously he’s going to continue to get better.”
Brown soars: As Stevens pointed out Wednesday night, Brown’s shooting was grossly misjudged by talent evaluators before he left California following his freshman year.
“I always thought I could shoot the ball. In college I didn’t shoot good and the analytics guys jumped the gun,” he said, adding of his rapid improvement since his rookie season, “It’s hard to point out. Everything is something I’ve been working on. Stuff changes from year to year and each year I look on as a new challenge.”
Going small: With Thompson out Wednesday night, Stevens opted for Teague as a fifth starter, reinforcing the fact that when the Celtics coach has a choice, he generally opts for the small-ball lineup. This configuration remains his team’s best chance of winning, he believes.
“I think we’re gonna obviously play that way some,” said Stevens. “If it’s 40 minutes a game, if it’s 48 minutes a game, or if it’s 36 minutes a game, but we’re going to be playing for that for the vast majority of the game anyways, right? I mean even if we start Tristan and Theis together, we played that lineup about 12 minutes total in those games, so we’re basically going to be small most of the time.
“I thought Teague’s aggressiveness defensively in the last two games have really spearheaded us,” he said. “I thought yesterday at the end of the third, early fourth, he got his hands on a few balls, got some tips from behind, he anticipates so well, he’s seeing all the actions and all the plays, he knows what’s coming, you can see him peel back into plays off of help. So I think that that helped that first group go today but, we’ll continue to play small most of the time. I think that’s our best bet. But we will mix in some big and depending on who the opponent is, we’ll see.”
Theis adjusts: Though Theis sprained his right thumb early, he returned with a strong 12-point performance, all of it at the rim. But he admits that the adjustment of playing more power forward this season has been difficult.
“Obviously I’ve had a very slow start to the season right now,” he said. “The four is a new position for me. Something different. You could see today that five is my natural position. I know my spots, especially in our system in the pick and roll, and even running the floor. But it’s something I can improve.”

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