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The Celtics probably needed Jaylen Brown to play well in Game 7 no matter what if they hoped to advance to the NBA Finals. They certainly needed him to after Jayson Tatum rolled his ankle on the first play of the game. While Tatum battled through the injury and played 42 minutes, he was clearly hobbled and acknowledged after the game that he felt “like a shell of myself.”
The opportunity was there for Brown to step up and lead the way and show why he deserves a five-year, $295 million supermax extension this summer.
Instead, he crumbled. Brown did lead the Celtics in scoring, but with just 19 points on an inefficient 8-of-23 shooting. He was 1-of-9 from three, capping off a whole series of miserable shooting from deep, as he finished the Eastern Conference Finals 7-of-43 (16.3%) from beyond the arc. Oh, and he committed eight turnovers, the most ever by a Celtic in a Game 7.
Brown, to his credit, didn’t hide or make any excuses for his poor performance after the game.
“We failed. I failed. And we let the whole city down,” Brown said.
“Just a terrible game when my team needed me most,” he added. “JT hurt his ankle first play of the game. You could see it swelling up, and he couldn’t move out there. It was tough. My team turned to me to make plays, etc., and I came up short. I failed. It’s tough.”
Now all eyes turn to the summer and that possible supermax deal for Brown. There will fairly be questions about whether Brown is worth it, especially after that series and that game. The alternative of moving on from Brown and trying to find another running mate who will fit with Tatum and help lift Boston to a championship might be a road filled with even more uncertainty, though.
There are also questions about whether Brown wants to commit to the Celtics long-term. He sounded noncommittal about his future during multiple interview in the second half of the season. There was more of that Monday night.
“I expected to win today and move on. That’s what my focus was on. That’s what my focus has been on,” Brown said when asked if he’s thought about his future and what he wants. “We failed. I failed. And it’s hard to think about anything else right now, to be honest. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
Brown was later asked a follow-up about what his thought process is going into the summer and how he expects things to play out.
“I don’t even really know how to answer that question right now, to be honest,” he said. “My thought process is, take it one day at a time, focus on getting better, focus on what the future holds, and see where we are, I guess. I don’t really know how to answer that.”
Brown could have said anywhere in those two answers that he wants to remain in Boston or hopes to get an extension done, but he didn’t. He did, however, sound a bit like someone who expects to stick around when he was asked what the Celtics need to do to capitalize on this “championship window.”
“Take it on the chin. You learn from it,” he said. “As hard as this one is to swallow, you get better. Tough one. Tough one for me. Tough one for our team. Tough one for our organization. Extremely bad timing. You just learn. This is part of the journey. This is not the end. We’ve got a lot better to get, a lot better basketball to play. You just have to look at it like that.”
“This is not the end.” Obviously, Brown getting traded would be the end, at least for this Tatum-Brown core. Tatum, for his part, made it clear that he hopes this is not the end for that duo.
“It’s extremely important,” Tatum said when asked about locking up Brown long-term. “He’s one of the best players in this league. Plays both ends of the ball. Still relatively young. He’s accomplished a lot so far in his career, so I think it’s extremely important.”
We’ll find out if Brown and the Celtics front office agree.