Forward Jaylen Brown takes a shot over Pacers guard Ben Sheppard during the Celtics’ 126-110 win in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday in Boston. Brown scored 40 points and the Celtics lead the series, 2-0. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

BOSTON — The Celtics led by 13 points with 3:19 remaining in the third quarter when the crowd broke in an “M-V-P” chant, acknowledging the player at the free-throw line.

It wasn’t Jayson Tatum about to finish off a three-point play.

It was Jaylen Brown, the star who has risen in the postseason, the player who is covering up for the curious amounts of time Tatum has been dormant in this series.

Brown, not Tatum, has been the constant. He’s the half of the dynamic duo making the crucial plays and hitting the biggest shots from start to finish. In the Celtics’ 126-110 win over the Indiana Pacers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals Brown scored 40 points and Boston took a 2-0 series lead.

That tied his career playoff high.

It seems like Brown has been on a mission during the playoffs. Whatever the impetus, the Celtics have needed Brown and his killer instinct to put away the lesser teams they’ve faced during this postseason ride.


The “M-V-P” chants by the TD Garden crowd merely put a stamp on that narrative. The fans know the score, recognizing it’s Brown who has taken his game to the next level. It’s Brown who has put the Superman cape on.

Not Tatum.

Tatum, the Celtics’ resident superstar, had just four points in the first half of Game 2 before finishing with 23. Tatum finally came alive after Pacers forward Aaron Nesmith, who had largely been defending him, left the game after picking up his fourth foul with 5:20 to go in the third quarter.

So while Tatum has struggled with his shot, Brown, who hit the clutch 3-pointer to send Game 1 to overtime, has picked up the slack. Others have too. In Game 2, Derrick White (23 points) and Jrue Holiday (15 points) also made significant contributions.

If Tatum ever gets going Banner 18 will follow.

But as Tatum tries to find his groove, it’s Brown who has carried the team, imposing his will on the Pacers.


Jaylen Brown grabs a rebound next to Pacers guard Ben Sheppard, right, during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday in Boston. Steven Senne/Associated Press

Brown set the tone Thursday night. He had six of the team’s first nine points and scored 24 of his game-high 40 by halftime. Brown also let his play do the talking when it came to being left off the All-NBA team.

After the game, he didn’t readily admit the snub motivated him, but it was easy to read between the lines.

While Brown initially said he cared more about advancing to the NBA Finals, than receiving any personal accolades, he eventually opened up. Later in his press conference, when asked about being underrated or overlooked as an NBA player, Brown didn’t hold back.

“I watch guys get praised and anointed who I feel like is half as talented as me on either side of the ball,” Brown said. “But at this point in my life I just embrace it. It comes with being who I am and what I stand for and I ain’t really changing that.

“So I just come out and I’m grateful to step out on the floor, put my best foot forward. I get better every single year and whether people appreciate it or not, it is what it is.”

His teammates appreciate that about him. They’ve seen the transformation. They’ve seen him evolve into a leader and someone who will step up in the key moments.


In the 12 playoff games this season, Brown is averaging 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists. In the two games against the Pacers, he’s pumped in 33 points per game.

“He has it going. You all see what I see,” Holiday said of Brown. “Great player, great leader, but wants to win, and takes things into his own hands. Having a guy like that on my side, I love it. I’ll ride for him … the way JB has been playing has been outstanding.”

Celtics Coach Joe Mazzulla tried to put the motivation factor of Brown not making the All-NBA team into context.

“I think he cares about it in a way that motivates him. And I think he doesn’t really care about it at all because he understands that winning is the most important thing,” Mazzulla said. “He has an innate ability to just get better … he has unreal confidence, but he’s also not afraid to work on things he needs to get better at. He just cares about the right stuff.”

Like Tatum, Brown has struggled at times to deliver. During last season’s Game 7 loss in the Eastern finals against Miami, Brown was a turnover machine.

He’s hellbent on atoning for that, and making sure the Celtics stay the course. If Tatum is having an off shooting night, Brown has done whatever it takes to keep the team afloat.

Said Mazzulla: “He takes a lot of pride in his ability to impact the game in different ways, and I thought he did that tonight.”

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