Jaylen Brown's leadership takes center stage in Celtics' Game 3 win

Jaylen Brown's leadership takes center stage in Celtics' Game 3 win originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

“On the road, backs against the wall, where my dogs at?”

Woof. Woof. Woof.

A mic’d up Jaylen Brown gave us a rare glimpse behind the curtain during Saturday’s Game 3 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series in Cleveland. Forty-eight hours after Brown called Boston’s Game 2 effort “unacceptable,” we got a bunch of small glimpses into how he helped guide this team back on track with his words.

From the canine roll call in the pregame huddle — with teammates barking in response to his query — to pregame shoulder rubs for teammates Sam Hauser and Derrick White, to repeatedly gassing up fellow All-Star Jayson Tatum and reminding him that he’s “Big Deuce,” Brown’s impact Saturday went well beyond the box score.

But the box score wasn’t bad, either. Brown posted 28 points on uber-efficient 13-of-17 shooting to go along with nine rebounds, three assists, and a steal over 40 minutes, 39 seconds of floor time. Brown was a team-best plus-18 in plus/minus.

What’s more, the Cavaliers were a mere 3-of-12 shooting (25 percent) when Brown was the primary defender in Game 3, per NBA tracking. Despite his own role in the sometimes fruitless quest to limit Cleveland star Donovan Mitchell, the Cavaliers are shooting 6.3 percent below expected output against Brown.

But the mic’d up clips showed the little ways that Brown helps fuel this team. Couple it with Al Horford noting how Tatum implored the Celtics to keep their foot on the gas at halftime — leading to a dominant run to open the third quarter — and we got an inside look at how Boston’s superstars keyed a firm response in what kind of felt like a must-have game after the letdown in Boston on Thursday night.

Veteran Jrue Holiday, who turned in his finest outing of the postseason while increasing his own offensive aggressiveness, particularly by muscling his way near the basket, was emphatic about Brown’s vocal impact.

"Just being a leader. Expressing his feelings and just kind of pouring out his knowledge on the game,” said Holiday. "Telling me to be aggressive. 'If you get tired, then I'll switch onto Donovan.' And just being a leader in that way. Talking to us, defensively, especially down the stretch — 'No 3s, rebound the ball!' He's sitting there yelling at us. So just being the leader that he is.”

Usually it’s Brown who lights the fuse for the Celtics, but in Game 3, it was Tatum producing the big first quarter (12 points on 5-of-9 shooting). It was clear from the jump that Tatum, who was well aware of the playoff criticism he faced after Boston’s Game 2 letdown, was going to put his imprint on Game 3.

And Brown certainly wasn’t going to let him take his foot off the gas.

“C’mon, Big Deuce. C’mon,” Brown told Tatum coming out of a timeout in one mic’d up clip, using one of Tatum’s favorite nicknames. "Tell 'em to stop playing with you. ‘I’m Big Deuce, c’mon!’”

This surely isn’t the only time that Brown has gassed up teammates, but given the magnitude of the game, it was fascinating to see Brown really try to inspire his teammates. That he sought out Hauser and White in the layup line wasn’t a coincidence. Both have struggled to provide their usual offensive output in recent games and Brown knew they would be important to helping Boston in Game 3.

If Tatum is the quieter of Boston’s two stars, Brown knows the power of his voice. From scolding the team for its subpar effort after Game 2, to keeping the team’s focus on the ultimate goal, Brown repeatedly has said all the right things this postseason.

And he has backed it up with his play.

Through eight playoff games, Brown is averaging a team-best 24.1 points per game while shooting 55.6 percent from the floor. Brown is shooting an absurd 64.4 percent on all 2-point shots this postseason — or 8.4 percent above his postseason career average.

For all the criticism he’s heard in past seasons, Brown has been excellent this postseason. But the mic’d up clips offered even more perspective on his impact, and the way his leadership goes well beyond the box score.

"I think we just need everybody to be on the same page and everybody to come out with the right effort,” said Brown. "That's 85 percent of the battle right there. We come out, we play hard, and then we're on the same page and the rest will take care of itself.

"We've got enough talent in the locker room to beat teams. But if we're not on the same page and we're not playing hard, those are when we get ourselves in trouble. So making sure, before the game at film and shootaround, talking to everybody, touching everybody, letting everybody know that, 'Hey, we're not here to play around.'

"We didn't come to Cleveland for the weather, so let's go.”