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Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown feel more ready in NBA Finals return

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) congratulates guard Jaylen Brown (7) after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 4 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Monday, May 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

BOSTON – For almost their entire time together in Boston, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been linked.

They were selected by the Celtics third overall in consecutive years.

They have similar skills: two explosive and skilled wing players with the ability to score from almost every point on the court.

And both have been instrumental in the success of a Celtics team that reached the NBA Finals for the second time in three seasons. He helped Brown land the NBA’s first $300 million contract last summer. And Tatum is expected to get one this offseason.

The team has branded the All-Stars as “The Blue Jays” in a marketing campaign shown during games that pitted them against each other in mini-competitions.

READ: Celtics follow Mazzulla’s ‘crazy’ coaching style to NBA Finals

It has created natural comparisons between them along the way, fostering an atmosphere in which fans and sports experts alike have tried to analyze which of them is better, which is the most untouchable spot on the roster, and which of them is more fundamental for victory. The success of the Celtics as they prepare to lead the team to the franchise’s 18th NBA title.

It reached a new level last week during a segment on ESPN’s “Get Up” in which panelists debated whether Tatum, 26, expressed excitement or disappointment while watching Brown, 27, take NBA MVP honors. Eastern Conference finals.

“I think it’s unfair to both of them,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said of what he saw as an attempt to manufacture friction between the two stars.

But even as Tatum and Brown have distinguished themselves as the most important players on Boston’s roster and the keys to the Celtics’ destiny in their NBA Finals showdown against the Dallas Mavericks, Mazzulla is hopeful people will start to see them differently.

“They are like two completely different people. They are two completely different players,” Mazzulla said. “They are great teammates, they love each other and seek to win and carry out their process in a different way. “I think it’s unfair that they always have to be together.”

READ: The Celtics are the favorites, but the money comes to the Mavericks in the NBA Finals

Tatum and Brown, along with Al Horford, are the only returning starters from the 2021-22 team that lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games in the Finals after holding a 2-1 series lead.

While Horford has primarily assumed a reserve role this season, backup 7-footer Kristaps Porzingis, Tatum and Brown have taken his game to a higher level.

Tatum’s scoring numbers have remained stable from the regular season (26.9 per game) through the playoffs (26.0), while his rebounds have increased from 8.1 to 10.4 per game in the postseason. Brown has seen jumps in those categories as well, going from 23.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per game to 25.0 points and 6.1 rebounds in the playoffs.

Tatum believes both have taken lessons from the 2022 NBA Finals loss, as well as last year’s conference finals loss to Miami, to become players more equipped to achieve their championship goal this time around. .

“Obviously, we’ve been there before, we came up short,” Tatum said. “You don’t always get a second chance, so we just look at it as a second chance and try to simplify things as much as we can.”

And also be each other’s biggest cheerleaders.

After Brown hit a game-tying 3-pointer late in Game 1 of the conference finals matchup with Indiana to send the game to overtime in an eventual Celtics victory, the biggest praise came from Tatum.

“Great players make great plays,” Tatum said of Brown.

READ: The Celtics can now start thinking about the NBA championship

For Brown, this season has been about focusing on the expectations he has for himself and not worrying about how others perceive him.

Initially, when asked if he was not named to either the All-NBA or All-Defensive team, he downplayed it and said his focus was on returning to the NBA Finals.

After being named MVP of the conference finals, he acknowledged that he offered at least some motivation, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, which he said he put most of his work into last offseason.

“As time went on and I got to this point, I stopped caring,” Brown said. “I don’t care who sees what, as long as my city knows my value, my team knows my value, my family, that’s all I really care about.”

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Mazzulla believes the reason Brown and Tatum’s relationship is so often talked about is rooted in outside disbelief that their dynamic doesn’t create any rivalry between them.

“At the end of the day, those two guys, their relationship is their relationship,” Mazzulla said. “They love each other. They push each other every day in practice. They communicate with each other, but they do it differently. And I think it’s unfair for both of them to be compared to each other. They are different. And we see that other duos in the league they don’t have to go through that. … It’s because they’ve been so successful their entire career that they’ve been able to stay successful for so long at a high level.”



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