DALLAS — Last May, Boston Celtics star Jaylen Brown felt like he let his team down on one of the biggest stages in basketball. In Game 7 of the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals, he went 8-for-23 from the floor and had a whopping eight turnovers en route to a 103-84 loss to the Miami Heat. From that defeat, Brown only grew hungrier for a taste of playoff glory, which has been on full display against the Dallas Mavericks in the 2024 NBA Finals.

“I mean, last year, just falling short on your home floor, it definitely hurt,” Brown said during his Thursday afternoon press conference. “It was embarrassing, in my opinion. I felt like the team was relying on me. [Jayson Tatum] got hurt in Game 7 and I dropped the ball. To me, it was embarrassing. It drove me all summer, drove me crazy.”

Brown atoned for his past mistakes by becoming the 2024 Eastern Conference Finals MVP. He helped the C's sweep the Indiana Pacers while averaging 29.8 points per game on 51.7% shooting from the field. That efficiency has carried over to the Finals, as Brown has shot 50% or better in every game against the Mavericks and in nine of his last 10 outings.

“It's really just all mentality, mentally just your will, your focus, your perseverance, your ability to overcome self. I think that's what I worked on the most [last summer],” Brown revealed. “In moments of embarrassment, in moments of coming up short, falling short is where the most growth takes place. Last year to end the season the way we did, I really attacked the summer.”

How Celtics have emphasized growth, learning from past mistakes

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) helps up forward Jayson Tatum (0) during the first half against the Miami Heat in game three of the Eastern Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs at Kaseya Center.
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Brown isn't the only Celtic who believes in growing from failure.

Fellow 2024 All-Star Jayson Tatum has said throughout the Finals that the 2022 NBA Finals and last year's semifinal series were teaching moments for the Green Team.

“I credited last year a lot to the success that we're having this season,” he said. “We were so consumed with getting back to the Finals, in a good way, but I think especially when we got to the Playoffs, we were just ready to get back to June. In some ways skipping steps. Those series took longer than they maybe should have, and we acknowledge that. We could have closed games out a lot earlier.”

To Tatum's point, the Celtics were in a six-game series with the inferior Atlanta Hawks in the first round. Then in the 2023 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Boston had a lengthy, seven-game series against the Philadelphia 76ers, who were without 2023 MVP Joel Embiid in Game 1.

These extended series tired Boston out, which is one reason why its attempt at a historic 3-0 comeback in the Conference Finals fell one game short.

“You find yourself in a hole down 0-3, the margin for error is so small,” Tatum stated. “Last year, we really believed that we could take it one game at a time and come back from that series.”

Instead of allowing the series to run on during this year's playoffs, the C's have done a much better job at taking care of business. They exacted revenge on a banged-up Heat team in five games, knocked out the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games, and handled the Pacers in only four games.

“Last year was a great learning experience,” Tatum said. “For one, to not take things for granted. You're never promised to make it back to the Finals. I think each and every person this year has came into the season with a different mindset. I think it has truly shown that we don't take things for granted, and we approach every single day the same.”

The five-time All-Star also said that previous series taught him to avoid complacency when in control.

“I think from our experiences over the past couple of years, the thing that we've really gotten a lot better at is not relaxing,” he said. “From game to game or series to series, we always want more.”

That lesson is important right now, as the Celtics lead the Finals 3-0 ahead of Game 4 on Friday night.

“Even now up 3-0, nobody is celebrating or anything. We still feel like there's a lot more that we can do,” he admitted. “There's a lot more that we want to do.”

In order for the Celtics to really demonstrate how they've grown, they just need one more win. The Mavericks will be desperate to keep the series alive and avoid the embarrassment of a sweep though, and the Celtics are aware of that danger.

“We still have to play the right way,” Tatum said in his postgame remarks on Wednesday night. “We've still got to win. They are not going to quit, and we should expect the best from them from here on out.”