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The Boston Celtics have been talented enough in recent seasons to raise Banner 18 to the TD Garden rafters. Not that they intentionally overly relied on that before, but how they measured up in other areas essential to lifting the Larry O'Brien Trophy is why they didn't.

So, while having the most talented top six in the NBA carries considerable weight, how they're faring with their self-issued challenge to be the smarter team when they take the floor is even more important than their league-leading 45-12 record.

"We're a more organized team this year," voiced Jaylen Brown after Boston's 116-102 victory vs. the New York Knicks on Saturday. "We (are) thinking the game; we're trying to be the smarter team every night, and we take our time. We identify mismatches, and we play the game the right way. I think this is one of the best years that we've done that since I've been a Celtic."

"Reading the game; realizing fast but playing slow," the three-time All-Star continued, citing a core principle of head coach Joe Mazzulla. "Recognizing what they're in, how they're guarding you, where the advantages are on the floor, and then taking your time. Not getting too sped up, not allowing teams to try to muck up the game. We're the more talented team, and we've got to be the smarter team as well, and when we do that, we're gonna be tough to beat."


He's in the midst of his best season. This after an All-NBA campaign ended with a career-high eight turnovers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, a loss to the Miami Heat on the TD Garden parquet.

His commitment to locking in more consistently on defense has elevated his play at that end while making a leap as a facilitator that many doubted.

Mazzulla, who doesn't define pace for this team as playing fast but as quickly making the right reads, getting to their spacing fast, and then playing out of that, discussed Brown's growth regarding making the right reads quickly and consistently with Inside The Celtics.

"Great intentionality, great purpose, great seeing the play before it happens," shared Boston's bench boss. "There's two clips from the Knicks game where he got the matchup that we wanted, and he didn't rush into an isolation or trying to score on that. Instead, he surveyed the defense and kind of took a second to see what they were going to do.

"And the space that he's in as far as his growth and development on the offensive end; he works at it every single day, and it's been great to watch him learn from that. And whether it's the film room or on the court here, he's always looking to get better. And I think those two clips kind of portray that. He's recognizing advantages, but he's (also) taking advantage of them with poise."

Both of those plays from Saturday's win at Madison Square Garden involve the six-foot-six wing getting Jalen Brunson, listed at six-foot-two, in the low post. Rather than trying to capitalize quickly, Brown is patient and composed. 

In the first example, keeping his head up allows him to scan the floor rather than attempting to barrel his way to the basket without noting the positioning of the defenders or his teammates.

When Donte DiVincenzo rotates to double-team him, the seven-year veteran utilizes an escape dribble, gets the ball to Derrick White, and the Celtics can now take advantage of the numbers being in their favor.

White blows by Precious Achiuwa, Brunson steps up, trying to take a charge, and Josh Hart tags Kristaps Porzingis as the latter cuts into the paint. That leaves Jrue Holiday, whose 64.5 percent accuracy rate on corner threes is the most among all players attempting at least 0.5 per contest, per, wide open in the spot on the floor he's been the most dangerous shooter in the league this season.

In the second example, in a bit of deja vu, Brown gets the ball in the low post with Brunson matched up against him. When he gathers the entry feed, Alec Burks rushes to double-team him.

The 27-year-old calmly draws the help defender closer, then kicks the ball out to Holiday, who quickly swings it to Jayson Tatum. The five-time All-Star gets to attack Bojan Bogdanovic as he hurries to close out to him. The newly acquired Knick doesn't get there in time to get set, and the former Duke Blue Devil breaks to the basket for a layup.

Those two clips spotlight Brown's poise and ability to keep the game simple by staying ahead. It's a microcosm of the growth that has the Celtics better equipped to maximize their talent than in recent postseasons. 

Further Reading

Celtics Embracing Challenge to Go Beyond Most Talented

Jayson Tatum Opens Up About Sacrificing in Celtics' Title Pursuit: 'It's a Process'

Kristaps Porzingis Shares How First Season with Celtics Compares to His Expectations: 'Haven't Stopped Smiling'

Jayson Tatum's Approach vs. Nets Tale of Two Halves and Steadfast Commitment

Brad Stevens Discusses Celtics' Plan for Final Roster Spot

Marcus Smart Shares How Boston Shaped Him, His Message to Celtics Fans

Celtics Maturation Molded by Experience: 'It Builds, Like, an Armor'

Jaylen Brown Quieting Doubters, Validating What He Always Believed: 'Earn Everybody's Trust'

Joe Mazzulla Discusses Identity, Evolution of Celtics' Offense: 'Balance of Pace and Execution'