How Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown’s Similar Skills Actually Work to the Celtics’ Advantage

Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal were both dominant scorers – Bryant on the perimeter, O’Neal in the paint. Bryant didn’t need a pass to score. O’Neal needed someone to get him the ball. Sometimes Bryant didn’t want to. This compromise caused friction, enough to end a dynasty, but not before the duo won three championships together.

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are a different duo.

The Celtics drafted Brown in 2016, then took Tatum the following summer. The difficulty in pairing two versatile young wings early in their careers was that their skill sets overlapped. But one of the Celtics’ strengths during a seven-year stretch in which they made the playoffs every year, reached the conference finals five times and are in the midst of their second trip to the Finals, it’s having two players capable of supporting the same shoulders. — and heavy — responsibilities.

Brown and Tatum have become threats as 3-point shooters, isolation scorers, transition finishers and pick-and-roll decision-makers, making them a rare breed just as capable of driving to the basket as they are. coming off the dribble for a three.

The Celtics are leveraging those skills to unlock an offense that was the second-most potent in the league this season. Although the Celtics have received criticism for letting 3-point shots fly, this shot relies on their attack in the paint. The task of getting to the rim every night — as well as the toll it takes on a body — falls largely on Brown and Tatum.

On paper, the Celtics don’t seem like a tough team. They were 28th in the league in field goal attempts and 29th in field goal attempts (on average, teams attack the basket 48.2 times per game).

Meanwhile, as a drive and kick machine, finely tuned over the past three seasons, the Celtics also made an average of 42.5 threes.

These efforts help achieve this.

The Celtics are shooting 45.4 percent of their drives – 20th in the league, but still a healthy enough rate to force defenses to guard the rim. They pass on 38.7 percent of their drives — a number high enough to create a dilemma for defenses: pack the paint and scramble to close threes or guard the 3-point line and let Tatum and Brown finish at the rim?

Tatum has 364 assists this season; 194 of them were 3-pointers. Brown had 249 assists, including 121 3-pointers.

Choose your poison.

It was an issue Mavericks coach Jason Kidd was preparing for before the series.

“When multiple bodies are on the ball, that’s when all three come into play,” Kidd said.

The closer the Celtics get to a title, the more stress Brown and Tatum put on their defenses. During the regular season, Brown drove to the basket 10.1 times per night and Tatum 9.1 times.

In the playoffs, they were more determined to get to the basket. Brown gets to the rim 13.3 times per night and Tatum an additional 12.9 times. In the final, they were maniacal about attacking the basket. Brown drove an obscene 23.5 times per game. Tatum went to the rim 18.5 times per night.

It’s no coincidence that the Celtics made 42 threes in Game 1 and 39 more in Game 2.

Julian Benbow can be contacted at [email protected].

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