Maskless Jaylen Brown proves to be X-factor for Boston Celtics in Game 4

The Hawks did not make it easy, but Jaylen Brown's play on both ends of the floor late made the difference to propel the Boston Celtics to a Game 4 win (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The Hawks did not make it easy, but Jaylen Brown's play on both ends of the floor late made the difference to propel the Boston Celtics to a Game 4 win (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The Atlanta Hawks did not make it easy, but the play on both ends of the floor from Jaylen Brown late in the contest made all the difference to propel the Boston Celtics to a Game 4 win.

For the first time since February 8, 2023, Brown showed the NBA world what he can do without his now-patented black mask. Brown had just missed a contested two in the painted area. Trae Young would assist Saddiq Bey for an easy two in transition on the other end of the floor to cut the Boston Celtics lead to eight. Nothing was going Brown’s way through the first 15 minutes of the game. The former California guard had not made a shot since the 10:25 mark of the first quarter. Brown walked down the right side of the floor toward the Cs’ bench, removing a piece of equipment that had become a part of him over the past few months.

The minute Brown took retired his mask, Boston went on an 11-5 run with the All-Star guard knocking down a 26-footer to propel the away side to a 14-point lead. No. 7 would go on to score seven points in the final minutes of the first half in addition to finding Marcus Smart for a clutch three to end the quarter as the Atlanta Hawks attempted to throw an extra defender his way. It was as if once he took off his mask, Brown was set free. The former Pac-12 Freshmen of the Year meant business, and at a time when the team needed a spark, Brown provided it.

Brown explained his reasoning for doing away with the mask, stating:

"“Maybe it was all in my head…I just needed a different look. I just felt like to start the game I didn’t like the looks that I got so I just needed something to switch it up a little bit. And as soon as I took it off things started to turn around a little bit.”"

During his time with it on, the 26-year-old Georgia native averaged 26.3 points per game including the first 15 minutes on Sunday night. Despite performing at a high level at times, Brown was never a fan of wearing it despite it being recommended by the medical staff and even his own mother. The star Boston Celtics wing expressed about a month ago that his facial contusion was still healing, not providing a hint as to when he would return to the floor without a mask.

Once Brown discarded the protective equipment, it seemed to have an effect on both ball clubs. For many, including Smart and Jayson Tatum, there was a deeper meaning to it. It looked as if he had been waiting for weeks to uncover himself on the floor. Boston came out with more urgency out of the timeout, running a quick ball screen to get Derrick White open on the perimeter to knock down a three. On the offensive end, the Cs looked more connected, collecting an assist on eight out of the 10 baskets since Brown did away with the face mask before the halftime buzzer sounded.

The final 12 minutes was where maskless Jaylen Brown put his stamp on a clutch performance to commemorate being back home in Atlanta.

The fourth quarter was really when Brown shut the door on the Hawks’ hopes of evening up the series and heading back to TD Garden for Game 5. Not only was it his play on the offensive end. Brown left it all out on the floor, making those “playoff-type” hustle plays to give his team that extra edge.

With Boston up by eight at around the 7:00 mark was when the Cs No. 7 really got going. Brown would receive the ball in the corner from Malcolm Brogdon as Onyeka Okongwu approached him with 16 ticks left on the shot clock. The two-time All-Star drove right into the chest of the big man, asserting his dominance late. Despite missing the layup at the rim, Brown reached over the USC product to tip in a pivotal basket after the Boston Celtics had come up empty on the previous two offensive possessions.

Just a few minutes later when Atlanta had cut the Boston lead to five, Brown took it upon himself to take over the game. In back-to-back possessions, No. 7 drove into the teeth of the Hawks’ defense and unselfishly laid it off to Robert Williams III for two easy baskets. Last season, Brown may have not made that kind of play, possibly even forcing up a shot that was not there.

Jaylen Brown had a complete performance in Game 4 for the Boston Celtics

The growth of his game which included his vision and play-making ability was on full display when Joe Mazzulla’s men needed it late. Nothing sped him up. Brown played the game at his own pace, delivering a “veteran-like” postseason display.

His composure was sublime. You could see it in the eyes of Brown midway through the second quarter. This was his game, and nobody was going to get in front of him making an impact en route to the Cs holding a 3-1 lead back to the parquet floor.