The real highlight for Jaylen Brown came right before his poster dunk

The real highlight for Jaylen Brown came right before his poster dunk originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

If we told you the best part of the Jaylen Brown's poster dunk over Clint Capela on Sunday night happened well before the actual jam, would you believe us?

You’re skeptical. Brown’s dunk caused one of those bench tidal waves with Luke Kornet spasming his way onto the court and everyone else flailing in various directions. Brown’s right-hand flush left entire sections of fans slack-jawed and/or tapping their heads feverishly in “on his head” celebration:

But our favorite part of the sequence wasn't Brown’s crossover blow-by of Atlanta’s All-Star guard Trae Young, or his full detonation on top of Capela — though both were admittedly pretty cool. It was Brown winning a foot race to corral Derrick White’s missed 3-pointer and snatching the offensive rebound from a triangle of Hawks jerseys that set the whole sequence into motion.

Actually, there were only two Hawks actively trying to get the ball and one somewhat indifferent Young loitering nearby. Young had the audacity to emphatically scoff when a teammate didn’t snag the ball before Brown.

Young was still emoting when Brown blew past him like a traffic cone then delivered the right-handed slam straight over the top of the 6-foot-10 Capela.

Too often over the past two weeks, opponents were winning that foot race to a 50/50 ball. Heck, this was more like a 20/80 ball, and Brown still made sure he emerged with it. The Celtics made far more hustle plays on Sunday night than we saw in any game on their recent road-heavy schedule.

Brown’s reward was a highlight that ought to nestle itself snugly among the very best of his growing collection of highlight dunks.

Brown did not have the loudest night on the Celtics’ roster. All-NBA pal Jayson Tatum scored 13 of his game-high 34 points in the fourth quarter to get Boston to the finish line of a 113-103 win. Brown did not have the most impactful performance. Al Horford claimed that while grabbing 15 total rebounds in a spot start with Kristaps Porzingis sidelined at least a week with a calf strain.

But Brown produced a solid all-around night, one that started with him taking some turns defending Young, and peaked with the poster dunk as part of a 21-point output. Along the way, Brown made some excellent passes -- his three assists not fully indicative of his keen playmaking in this game -- and grabbed seven rebounds.

Brown’s scoring is vital to Boston’s overall success. But the Celtics' wealth of offensive talent, particularly at full health, has left us yearning for Brown to embrace making an impact in other ways.

That’s why the hustle to extend a possession was so enchanting. The Celtics were the ones getting outhustled in Charlotte and outmuscled in Orlando. Coach Joe Mazzulla asked his team to re-embrace corner crashing before Sunday’s game and two of the game’s more noteworthy moments featured Brown and Horford emerging from crowds of black jerseys with momentum rebounds.

The Celtics, of course, did not always make the hustle plays. And that allowed Atlanta to creep back into the game in the second half. But Boston made enough plays to prevent a double-digit lead from fully evaporating like it had in recent outings.

Brown has developed such good chemistry with newcomer Porzingis that it was fair to wonder if the big man’s absence would erode Brown’s offensive efficiency. While Brown never quite got the 3-point shot going on Sunday (2-of-7 3PT) , he made 7 of his 12 shots inside the arc.

The dunk on top of Capela will be what most fixate on while digesting the win. It would have never happened if Brown didn’t hustle for the offensive rebound. And it wasn’t the only time Brown jumped in a basketball mosh pit trying to make something good happen.

Late in the third quarter, with Boston trying to stiff arm Atlanta’s initial charge,  Brown chased another long rebound off a White miss. This time, Brown ended up airborne in pursuit and flipped over the back of De'Andre Hunter before crashing to the Garden floor below. He didn’t get the rebound but the effort didn’t go unnoticed.

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Brown suggested he felt like he got in a “little car accident” after taking the fall but said he’d be OK, even if he was already feeling it more as the adrenaline wore off after the game.

The Celtics need Brown to throw himself into more of those frays -- safely, of course. Brown didn’t get to All-NBA status without being able to impact the game in multiple areas, but he seems more willing than ever to embrace being a more consistent playmaker (especially if he cuts down the turnovers) and a rebounder.

The poster dunk will replay on a loop. But it’s the hustle we yearn to see again and again.