Jaylen Brown did something Thursday that Celtics legend Larry Bird never achieved.
He scored 40 points against Boston’s historic rival, the Los Angeles Lakers.
Bird, the Hall of Famer and one of the Celtics’ greatest players ever, scored 40 points or more in a game 48 times in his 13-year NBA career. He did it five more times in the playoffs.
None of those was against the Lakers, the franchise with whom Boston shares the record of 17 NBA titles.
Brown, 24, in his fifth season with the Celtics after playing one year at Cal, scored two key baskets in the final minute to cap a 40-point performance in which he missed just three shots as Boston held off a late charge by the Lakers to win 121-113.
“Jalen was just unreal tonight,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said afterward.
The Celtics led by as many as 27 points before Stevens pulled his starters. When the Lakers stormed back with a 24-2 run, Brown and the regulars were sent back on the floor.
The Lakers still are playing without injured stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis but got a boost from having some fans at the Staples Center for the first time in more than a year.
"The Celtics-Lakers matchup is a matchup that kids dream about, so regardless of who's on the floor, I'm excited to play," Brown said. "Having that energy with those Lakers fans back in the arena, we just wanted to come out and get a win.”
Boston won for the fifth straight game and the seventh time in its past eight outings.
Brown was on target all night, making 17 of 20 shots from the field. He became the first Celtics player to shoot at least 85 percent while scoring 40 points. He made 11 consecutive shots over one stretch, and one of his three misses was a heave at the buzzer ending the first half.
“A terrific performance,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel called it.
Here’s some of what the Boston Globe had to say about Brown’s game:
Jaylen Brown scored in every way imaginable and eclipsed 40 points thanks to the bench implosion. He got to the basket at will and hit several 3-pointers, but perhaps most interesting was the touch he showed on his floaters. He tossed in several contested shots, including two tough, crucial ones in the final minutes.
Asked afterward to explain how he has taken his game to an all-star level this season, Brown said he feels “an elevated responsibility” on this team.
“I have more of a role to play-make than I have ever. I think that’s a big key, but also just studying and watching the game and improving. That’s what I’m about.”
Stevens was impressed.
“Tonight he was really dialed in, scoring the ball. You’re not always going to shoot as efficiently as he did tonight, but he’s had a great year and he continues to get better," Stevens said. "Tonight was a night when he got going and we tried to ride that as much as possible.
“He was great tonight . . . I can’t say enough good things.”
Brown fell just two points shy of his season and career best of 42 points, which he accomplished twice this year.
Bird — who retired in 1992, four years before Brown was born — had a career high of 60 points vs. the Atlanta Hawks during the 1984-85 season.
Cover photo of Jaylen Brown vs. Oklahoma City by Alonzo Adams, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo