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Instead of Russell vs. Wilt, How About Steph vs. Jaylen Brown in the NBA Finals?

A Warriors-Celtics showdown for the championship would be their first since 1964.

Nothing is settled, but we believe — we hope, actually — it will be Warriors vs. the Celtics in the NBA Finals.

Golden State took a big step toward getting there by rallying from 19 points down to beat the Dallas Mavericks 126-117 on Friday night for a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Boston returns home tonight to face the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals after gaining a split on the road earlier this week. Tipoff tonight is 5:30 p.m. PDT on ABC.

The Warriors and Celtics have met just once in the NBA Finals, way back in 1964, when Boston claimed a 4-2 series victory in a duel between iconic big men Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.

The stars in the potential rematch would be Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Jayson Tatum. 

And Jaylen Brown.

Jaylen Brown

Jaylen Brown

Brown, who spent one season at Cal before bolting to the NBA, has continued to excel for the Celtics. The 6-foot-6 guard is averaging 22.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists in the postseason. He is shooting 48 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range in the playoffs.

He was the catalyst for Boston’s 127-102 win at Miami on Thursday, scoring 11 of his 24 points in the first quarter as the Celtics took charge.

Christopher L. Gasper, columnist for the Boston Globe, gave context to Brown’s performance:

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There’s a tendency in some circles to want to reduce Brown to Tatum’s sidekick. The Other Jay. But the Celtics’ strength is in numbers and boasting two sublime wing stars. Brown is not a mere sidekick, the Robin to Tatum’s Batman. He’s more like the Batman to Tatum’s Superman. He can carry his own cape, thank you very much. Thursday was a reminder.

In fact, Tatum wasn’t even on the floor when Boston seized control, having gone to the bench with early foul trouble. While he was out, the Celtics outscored the Heat 20-6, transforming an 18-15 deficit into a 35-24 lead.

Brown scored or assisted on 12 of the 20 points.

Tatum appreciates his teammate.

“Obviously, JB can do it all,” Tatum said. “So when he has the ball, more often than not, great things are going to happen. He was just real decisive and getting to his spots and just making the right play, obviously drawing a lot of attention out there. He did a great job making the right reads.”

By halftime, Boston led 70-45 on the strength of 12-for-19 shooting from the 3-point arc. Brown made all three of his 3’s and had 15 points by the break.

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra conceded that the Celtics’ hot start disrupted the Heat’s

“The shot-making, that got us out of what we normally do,” Spoelstra said. “That’s what shot-making can do. If you start the game 9 for 11 from three, that will get you out of your habits pretty quickly.”

Cover photo of Jaylen Brown by Jim Rassol, USA Today

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo