Jaylen Brown embodies Celtics’ frustrations in overtime loss to Knicks

Jaylen Brown embodies Celtics’ frustrations in overtime loss to Knicks

Updated: 1 month, 23 days, 4 hours, 19 minutes, 3 seconds ago

BOSTON — Robert Williams walked over first to offer his support to Jaylen Brown. Seconds thereafter, Al Horford headed over to slap Brown five. While walking down the court, Brown clapped his own hands together, as if in disbelief he had just missed two straight free throws with the Celtics down by one point late in overtime Thursday night.


As if the knowledge he had cost Boston weren’t enough on its own, Brown then needed to deal with Knicks forward Julius Randle rubbing it in. While standing at the opposite foul line, Randle could be seen needling Brown with a big smile on his face. After the Celtics’ 120-117 overtime loss, Brown said he didn’t know exactly what Randle said during the exchange but was sure Randle was “happy to get a win.”

thought i would never see the day.https://t.co/e92cCdNOYi pic.twitter.com/fn6ej4P6nv

— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) January 27, 2023

Even after Brown’s botched free throws, Boston produced a decent opportunity to tie the score shortly before the final buzzer. Jayson Tatum missed a difficult 3-point attempt and Malcolm Brogdon couldn’t get a clean shot off on a second-chance try, leaving Brown to regret the way he played. Beyond the two missed free throws, he felt like he let the Celtics down throughout their third straight defeat.

“Just didn’t really feel — didn’t assert myself into the game,” said Brown. “Was kind of just waiting around for the game to kinda come to you. At points, I’m one of the players that can just be aggressive and take control of the game. I kinda didn’t do that. I wasn’t efficient tonight. I had a couple turnovers I could’ve took back. Overall, just a lackluster performance. I could’ve played a lot better. It wasn’t anything — I mean, give credit to New York. They came out and played hard. It just wasn’t a version of Jaylen I know I can be.”

The Celtics have not been the best version of themselves lately. After a nine-game winning streak, they have now matched their longest losing skid of the season with three consecutive defeats. Thursday night, they charged back late in the fourth quarter to erase a 12-point deficit but could not complete a comeback win.

Tatum’s missed opportunity

After the Celtics fell behind 106-94 with five minutes left, Tatum — named an All-Star starter earlier in the night — brought them back by going into attack mode. He drew a foul on Randle, then drove past Randle for a layup. On the next Boston possession, Tatum put his shoulder into Jericho Sims to create enough space for another bucket at the rim.


The Knicks didn’t miss over one 1:20 stretch, but Tatum still chopped five points off their lead with nine straight Boston points, all of which came either in the paint or at the foul line. He then assisted Brogdon on a 3-pointer that brought the Celtics within two points before tying the score by blasting past Randle for one more layup. In all, Tatum scored 11 points over the final 4:48 of regulation to pull the Celtics out of a double-digit deficit.

He could have used two more.

After a fortunate Quentin Grimes miss, the Celtics had a chance to end the game at the end of regulation. Thinking the Knicks would have sent a double-team if he called for a screen, he decided to isolate against Grimes near the top of the key. Tatum created plenty of separation with a crossover but missed a pull-up jumper from near the right elbow.

“I kind of just waved everybody down (away from the action so the Knicks couldn’t double-team),” he said. “And (I) made a move back to my spot, and it rattled in and out. But it felt good and thought it was a good one.”

Robert Williams grabbed the offensive rebound but couldn’t manage to produce a clean look with a defender right there. If either of those shots had gone in, the Celtics would have been able to celebrate inside TD Garden. Instead, they went on to what became a frustrating overtime period.

Mazzulla points to earlier drought

Reflecting on the loss, Joe Mazzulla didn’t point to the final sequence in either regulation or overtime. He didn’t dislike the Celtics’ defensive effort, either, even though Randle (37 points) and Jalen Brunson (29 points) both had big games.

“I didn’t think it was our defense,” said Mazzulla. “I thought our offense put us in tough spots in transition at that end of the third quarter and the fourth quarter where we had 22 points off turnovers.”


During this three-game losing streak, the Celtics have hurt themselves with a number of long droughts. They went scoreless for six minutes of the fourth quarter during Tuesday night’s loss to Miami. Ahead by double digits at the beginning of that dry spell, they eventually lost the game when Tatum committed a turnover in the final seconds with a chance to either tie or go ahead. Beyond that possession alone, Mazzulla believed the Celtics, missing starting point guard Marcus Smart as well as several other key regulars in that game, failed to manage key possessions down the stretch.

Based solely on offensive rating, the losses in Orlando and Miami ranked as two of Boston’s five worst performances of the season. Smart has been sidelined for the duration of this skid with a sprained right ankle. Far from just a defensive specialist at this stage of his career, he leads Boston in assists at a career-high 7.2 per game. He recognizes how an opponent is defending the Celtics and figures out the right strategy of attack.

“We’re definitely missing that from him from the standpoint of he’s done such a great job this year of dictating our pace,” said Mazzulla. “He’s done such a good job of finding guys in cross-matches in transition, creating cross-matches in transition with and without the ball, and then recognizing where the matchup is and being able to attack. Our offense is really, really organized in the first six seconds because of him so we’re definitely missing that. And then obviously what he brings defensively.”

After pulling within 91-87 early in the fourth quarter, the Celtics committed four turnovers over a 2:21 stretch. Brogdon dribbled off his own foot. The Knicks intercepted one of Payton Pritchard’s inbound passes. Brown threw a bad pass that went out of bounds off the Celtics, then lost control of a behind-the-back dribble that skidded out of bounds.

“You can’t guard turnovers, and you can’t guard missed layups at the rim,” said Mazzulla. “So we had multiple possessions at the end of the third, beginning of the fourth where we turned it over or missed a layup. A wrong read at the rim is as detrimental as a turnover, so they were able to get out in transition. So it’s deciphering what’s hurting us in the half court and what’s hurting us as a team. Our offense put us in a tough spot in transition defense, to which they were able to get going. Once we got them in the half court, we were able to be more physical in individual defense, send an extra defender, rotate, limit them to one shot, get a stop, get out, make space and make the right play.”

Brown’s misses contribute to frustrating overtime

With 2:57 left in overtime, Tatum missed a left-handed layup that would have given Boston a seven-point lead. The Knicks responded with a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession, then held the Celtics to two points the rest of the way. Brown scored the lone Boston bucket during that stretch, a driving layup that put his team ahead 117-116 with 24.3 seconds left.

But after Randle hit two free throws to put the Knicks back ahead, Brown struck the front rim on a pair of his own.


“I’ve just got to be better, to be honest,” Brown said. “Tonight was a rough game, and I’m a better basketball player than I played today. Those two missed free throws kind of embodied the whole game. I didn’t get it going, didn’t give my teammates enough energy to get the win, and that’s what happens when you don’t come out and give your best. I’ll be better.”

The Celtics were able to produce a decent look moments before the final buzzer, but Tatum missed a 3-pointer to tie the score. Though it was Tatum who missed last, Brown pointed the finger at himself. He said the Celtics, including him, need a better mentality moving forward.

“Having a tough mind,” Brown said. “I think Joe talks about it all the time, having mental toughness, and after losing two games, tonight would be a great game to show that, and we dropped the ball, and I dropped the ball, as a leader. I didn’t give the energy needed to help my team win and those two free throws just kind of embodied my whole performance tonight.”

(Photo of Jaylen Brown: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)