When the lights are at their brightest, Jaylen Brown always seems to be ready to step up for the Boston Celtics.

Brown was arguably the Celtics’ best player when they were the runner-up to the Golden State Warriors back in 2022 and once again led the charge for them in Game 1 of this year’s NBA Finals. He led Boston to a 107-89 win over the Dallas Mavericks to take a 1-0 lead in the series with 22 points on seven-of-12 field goal shooting, two three-pointers, six rebounds, two assists, three steals, and three blocks.

The 27-year-old forward played a crucial role in the Celtics’ second quarter rally that allowed them to build a lead that reached a high of 29 points.

He scored nine points during the period, highlighted by a contested dunk over Daniel Gafford on a possession where four of the five Dallas players on the floor took turns trying to defend him.

However, it was the defensive intensity of Brown that made the biggest impact on the game. He helped set the tone for the Celtics on a night when they limited Dallas to just 41.7% field goal shooting and seven three-pointers.

Brown’s three steals and three blocks also put him in historic company as it marked the first time that a player recorded these numbers in the opening game of the NBA Finals since Tim Duncan did it in 2003.

Beyond the stat sheet, he also took on the task of being the primary defender on Luka Doncic. This was particularly crucial as the success of the Celtics’ defensive game plan hinged on his ability to cover him without any help defense. Brown’s laudable single coverage of Doncic made it possible for Boston not to send over a help defender, effectively cutting out opportunities for lob dunks and kick out passes.

Doncic, who entered the NBA Finals averaging 8.8 assists per game this possession, wound up with just one assist which essentially caused the Mavericks’ offense to stall.

If the Celtics are to go all the way and finally win their first NBA championship since 2008, Brown must continue his stellar play on both ends of the floor. These types of performances solidify his place as Boston’s 1b to Jayson Tatum’s 1a, proving that he is not just their second option.

The experiences of the Celtics’ failed title bid in 2022 serve as a reminder that this series is still far from over, but they are definitely off to a strong start thanks to Brown and are now only three wins away from the franchise’s banner number 18.