BOSTON (AP) — Marcus Smart laughs when he thinks about how far Jaylen Brown has come since he was a rookie.
There were moments during that 2016 season when he remembers a 19-year-old Brown at times recklessly driving 1-on-5 and throwing up wild shots at the rim.
“His excuse was: 'When everybody is telling me to slow down, the defense hears that, so I'm going to speed up.' We'd be like, 'No, that doesn't make any sense,'" Smart recalled. “He's using more of his grace now, to where he's understanding that sometimes just be patient and let the game come to you instead of going and get it yourself.”
On a night the Celtics were missing their top scorer, Brown showed off his growth, leading the Celtics with a season-high 36 points to help Boston hold off the Washington Wizards 130-121 on Sunday.
Malcolm Brogdon added 17 points and Derrick White finished with 15 for the Celtics, who have won three straight and 12 of their last 13. It is also Boston’s second win this season over Washington, which has lost its last three.
Celtics star Jayson Tatum missed his first game this season with a sprained left ankle. But his absence didn’t slow down Brown or the offense, as Boston jumped out to 17-point halftime edge and grew its lead as high as 26 in the third quarter.
“I enjoyed just playing basketball, Brown said. ”It's what the season is about. There's going to be guys in, guys out. We've got to be able to maintain our level of play when our big dog is not in the rotation. It was fun. It challenges everybody to step up in their roles."
He said he likes the progress the team has made a quarter into the schedule and with a league-best 16-4 record.
“I think we’re in a good spot and I think we still haven’t played out best ball yet,” Brown said.
The Wizards cut it to 119-107 in the fourth, prompting Boston interim coach Joe Mazzulla to reinsert his starting lineup to help close out the game.
Mazzulla said he wasn’t worried about his team responding without its top scorer on the floor.
“Our depth — no matter who’s out, our guys are ready to play and step up,” he said.
The NBA’s top-rated offense, Boston shot 55% from the field, 16 of 34 from the 3-point line and went 26 of 26 from the free throw line.
Bradley Beal led Washington with 30 points. Kristaps Porzingis added 21.
The Wizards were also short-handed, with forward Kyle Kuzma out with lower back pain.
They got back guard Monte Morris from a three-game absence because of a sore right ankle, but never found an offensive rhythm or got support from their bench, which was outscored by their Boston counterparts 46-36.
“We've got a lot of guys that can do a lot of things on the bench that would probably start on other teams,” White said. “Just having that depth that can step in when we need them and make plays and do the right things out there is huge for us.”
Wizards: Held a 58-52 advantage in the paint. … Had one turnover in the first half and four for the game.
Celtics: Improved to 9-1 at home. ... Brown has scored 25 or more points in five straight games. … Seven players finished in double figures. Held a 38-29 rebounding advantage. … Eight players made a 3-pointer. … Former Boston Bruins star Zdeno Chara sat courtside.