Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Jaylen Brown goes off without his face mask in Game 4 victory

Jaylen Brown had been using his face mask since the All-Star Game before he decided to remove it Sunday night in Atlanta.

The Celtics wing started Game 4 just 1-of-7 with two points and roughly at the nine-minute mark in the second quarter, Brown went mask-less for the first time since suffering a facial contusion.
"I was talking to Smart when JB took his mask off and I was like, 'Oh shit, it's go time,'" said Jayson Tatum during his postgame presser after dropping 31 points. "I knew he was going to turn it up a notch."
And "turn it up a notch" he did, as Brown proceeded to hit 11-of-15 from the field, including 3-of-3 from deep to finish with 31 points in a 129-121 win in Game 4 to give the Celtics a commanding 3-1 lead over the Hawks in this best-of-7 first-round series.
"Maybe it was all in my head," Brown told reporters after the game. "I just needed a different look. I just felt like to start the game I didn't like the looks that I got so I just needed something to switch it up a little bit. And as soon as I took it off things started to turn around a little bit."
Brown, who is also dealing with a finger laceration on his right shooting hand -- that occurred prior to the start of the playoffs, dropped 29 points in Game 1 but was held to 18 points in Game 2 and 15 in Boston's Game 3 loss.
"I saw just his poise," head coach Joe Mazzulla said of Brown's Game 4 performance. "I thought he did a great job making plays at the rim, operating in space, playing off two feet, making the right play. To me he showed just tremendous poise, especially on the offensive end. He had the ball in his hands making plays for himself and others."
Marcus Smart joked about not recognizing Brown following the removal of his mask that he had worn for over the past two months.
"After the timeout, we were looking for Jaylen. Couldn't find him because he didn't have his mask on," said Smart during his postgame comments. "It was like, 'Where's he at?' Then we see him in the corner and he gets the ball and then he makes those plays where he's driving with force and throws it off the glass a couple times and makes some great plays. We just knew at that moment it was a different JB and he was gonna carry us and bring us home."
While Smart, Derrick White and Sixth Man of the Year Malcolm Brogdon have contributed to key offensive moments so far in this series, the Celtics will need Brown to play like he did in Game 4 if they plan to go the distance and be the last team standing come June.

In the meantime, Boston will look to dispatch the Hawks and advance to the second-round Tuesday night, when Game 5 tips off from TD Garden at 7:30 ET on TNT.


Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy Getty Images

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