Brown's elite defense vs. Harden has given Celtics a huge edge


Jaylen Brown is one of the best scoring wings in the NBA.

The Boston Celtics star has a fantastic mid-range jumper. He can beat anyone off the dribble and score at the rim with his strength and finishing touch. His shooting range extends to the 3-point line, where he has hit 48.9 (!) percent of his attempts during the 2023 NBA playoffs.

But make no mistake -- Brown is an elite defensive player, too.

Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden is finding out first hand during his team's Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Celtics.

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Harden led the 76ers to a Game 1 victory and tied a playoff career high 45 points. Brown guarded Harden for just 2:45 in the series opener. The Celtics have clearly made an effort to put Brown on Harden far more often, and the strategy has worked wonders with Boston winning the last two matchups, including a 114-102 victory on the road in Game 3, to take a 2-1 series lead.

"Honestly, it started with Jaylen," Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon told reporters after Game 3. "Jaylen has picked up Harden and made it difficult on him the last two games. It's really changed the whole series."

Here's a recap of Brown's defense against Harden through three games:

Game 3 was clearly the most impressive performance by Brown in his matchup versus Harden. The Sixers star couldn't get anything going offensively, finishing 0-4 from the field when defended by Brown and 3-14 overall. After shooting 17-30 in Game 1, Harden has made just five of his 28 shots in the last two matchups combined. 

Brown set the tone in Game 2 by picking up Harden fullcourt off the opening tip and not giving him any space to set up the offense. By getting right into Harden the length of the floor, valuable time comes off the shot clock and that forces Philly to speed up its offense, which tends to result in a rushed/contested shot or a turnover. 

Embiid is going to score around 30 points every game he plays. The newly crowned MVP is just that good. But someone else on the Sixers will have to step up and be a consistently efficient scorer for them to upset the Celtics and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Harden should be that guy as the second-best player on the team, but Brown is giving him all he can handle. 

Brown has been the MVP of the series so far when you consider his elite defense on Harden and his impressive offensive production -- 23.7 points per game on 55.6 percent shooting (42.9 percent from 3-point range). 

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