SI:AM | Maybe Jason Kidd Was Right About Jaylen Brown

He played a crucial role in closing out the Celtics’ Game 3 victory.
Brown (7) finished with 30 points, 8 boards and 8 assists in Game 3.
Brown (7) finished with 30 points, 8 boards and 8 assists in Game 3. / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I really thought the Mavericks would put up a better fight at home.

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One win away

When Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said last week that Jaylen Brown was the Boston Celtics’ “best player,” it was widely believed that Kidd was playing mind games (an allegation Kidd denied) rather than expressing an earnest opinion about Boston’s hierarchy. But he may have been right.

Kidd’s initial assertion seemed outlandish because Jayson Tatum undoubtedly has a better résumé than Brown. (Tatum was named First-Team All-NBA in each of the past three seasons, while Brown has just one Second-Team selection to his name.) Brown is a star, but Tatum is a superstar. In the Finals, though, it’s Brown who has shone brightest.

Tatum struggled offensively in the first two games of the series, averaging 17 points per game on 31.6% shooting (although he contributed in other ways). And while Tatum was better in Game 3 (31 points on 11-of-26 shooting), he was quiet again in the fourth quarter as the Mavs mounted a ferocious comeback, making just one of his five field-goal attempts.

That’s when Brown stepped up.

The fourth quarter very nearly turned into a nightmare for the Celtics. Boston was able to stretch its lead to 21 points in the opening minutes but saw that lead evaporate as the Mavs reeled off a 22–2 run to cut the deficit to one. The only Boston basket scored during Dallas’s run—which lasted more than seven minutes—was by Brown. He played a huge role in helping stop the skid, scoring on a putback layup with 3:08 to play that made it 95–92 in favor of the Celtics and hitting a contested jumper with 1:01 to play that made it 102–98. He scored nine of Boston’s 21 points in the final quarter as the Celtics held on to win, 106–99.

“I mean, how can I explain Jaylen?” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “The guy just has a growth mindset. He just wants to get better. He yearns to get better. He’s not afraid to face his weaknesses on the court. So when you have that type of mindset, you’re just going to be able to take on every situation that the game brings you. He puts himself in every single situation that he sees in a game. He uses six, seven, eight coaches a day, and every situation on both ends of the floor, he puts himself in that.

“And that’s how you have to grow, is to become vulnerable and on the things that make you uncomfortable, and he does that.”

Brown’s biggest play of the night, though, may have been the foul he drew on Luka Doncic with 4:12 to play. Brown attacked Doncic in transition and gave Doncic no choice but to commit a foul, causing him to foul out. Doncic’s absence changed the entire shape of the game. Once Doncic was forced to leave the floor, Dallas’s comeback came to a screeching halt. Kyrie Irving did his best to carry the Mavs, but Doncic’s absence allowed Boston's defense to zero in on Irving.

Doncic’s poor performance was the other main takeaway from Game 3. He scored 27 points, but his uninspired defense left him vulnerable to foul calls, eventually leading to his disqualification from the game. His constant complaints to the referees probably didn’t help flip any borderline calls in his favor, either.

Doncic has never been a great defender but that’s been especially problematic against a Boston team whose scoring depth makes hiding Doncic on defense impossible. And he’s clearly struggling with injuries that hinder his mobility, making him even more of a defensive liability. Doncic certainly looks like he could use a rest, and now that the Mavs have fallen behind 3–0 in the series, it appears he’ll be getting one very soon.

Jun 8, 2024; Dublin, Ohio, USA; Rory McIlroy tees off on the second hole during the third round of the Memorial Tournament.
McIlroy is looking for his first major victory in a decade. / Adam Cairns-USA TODAY Sports

The best of Sports Illustrated

The top five…

… things I saw last night:

5. The couple that got married in the stands during a Giants game.
4. Giancarlo Stanton’s 449-foot shot for his 17th home run of the season. Stanton, Juan Soto (17) and Aaron Judge (25) have combined for 59 homers this season, which is more than five teams have on the year.
3. Christian Pulisic’s free-kick goal vs. Brazil.
2. Angel Reese’s big game against the league-leading Sun. She had a career-high 20 points and 10 rebounds as she notched her fourth straight double double.
1. Jaylen Brown’s ferocious dunk at the end of the third quarter.

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Dan Gartland


Dan Gartland is the writer and editor of Sports Illustrated’s flagship daily newsletter, SI:AM, covering everything an educated sports fan needs to know. Previously published on Deadspin and Slate, Dan also is a former Sports Jeopardy! champion (Season 1, Episode 5).