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“Partner in Crime”: Boston Celtics duo proves doubters wrong on their way to NBA title

BOSTON — Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are not a dynamic duo. That would mean one is Batman and one is Robin, one is the hero and the other is the sidekick.

Rather, the two are, as Brown put it, “partners in crime.” They've always been great individually, but now they've proven they can be great together, too. Sure, their dynamic is unorthodox. But you have to admit, it works.

Now they have an NBA title to prove it. Despite Tatum's superior skill set – few in the NBA can match his combined power, offensive creativity and defensive prowess – Brown feels like the engine that keeps the Celtics going, making big plays when his team needs him. Emotionally, Boston is in the same boat as Brown.

In the seven seasons they played together, many observers thought this could be a problem. After all, only one player can be “the one,” right?

Incorrect.

The Boston Celtics have proven the functionality of their team structure. They dominated other teams all season long. They made it through the playoffs with ease. And they topped it all off with a clear victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

“It was a team effort,” Brown said. “We came out and just played well on our home turf.”

Jaylen Brown (7) celebrates with Jayson Tatum the Celtics’ title-deciding victory in the fifth game against the Mavericks.

Jaylen Brown (7) celebrates with Jayson Tatum the Celtics’ title-deciding victory in the fifth game against the Mavericks.

Tatum and Brown dominated the court on Monday night. Tatum had his best game of the Finals in Game 5, scoring 31 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. Brown was not far behind, totaling 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

Tatum (22.2 points per game) and Brown (20.8) were the Celtics' top scorers in the NBA Finals. Tatum, who also slightly outscored Brown in rebounds and assists, influenced the series in several ways despite struggling to shoot consistently. Brown, who was named Finals MVP, always seemed to score the right baskets in the meantime.

“(The Finals MVP) could have been Jayson,” Brown said. “I can't praise his selflessness and attitude enough. We did it together and that was the most important thing.”

The two have supported each other in a way they never did before this season. Maybe it's a matter of familiarity. Maybe it's a matter of maturity.

Whatever the case, it was a sight to behold – and a matchup the rest of the NBA should be wary of.

“We went through a lot,” Brown said of his relationship with Tatum. “The losses, the expectations, the media. People said we can't play together, we can't win. We just blocked it out. He trusted me and I trusted him. And we did it together.”

The championship title represents a high point for Tatum and Brown after years of outside uncertainty about whether the two could coexist.

The duo lost to the Golden State Warriors in the 2022 Finals. They failed to defeat the Miami Heat in last year's Eastern Conference Finals, losing both times at home.

Many in Boston wondered if the Celtics would trade Brown instead of signing him to a record five-year supermax extension just 11 months ago.

“They're under so much scrutiny,” Jrue Holiday said of Tatum and Brown. “There's so much pressure on them for not winning and not getting over that hurdle. People can finally see what kind of relationship they have. From the beginning, they've always done it together. Hopefully (the championship) is a weight off their shoulders.”

“Another burden is having to do it again.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown showed greatness during NBA title run