Celtics

Baynes makes Hornets pay for leaving him wide open for jumpers

Baynes makes Hornets pay for leaving him wide open for jumpers

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics have the kind of offensive firepower that should put them among the most potent scoring teams in the NBA this season.

Kyrie Irving. Gordon Hayward. Al Horford.

They’re all All-Stars who have proven themselves as scorers in the NBA.

So naturally, the first basket made by the Celtics in their preseason opener against Charlotte on Monday came from … Aron Baynes?

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While he is known primarily as a physically imposing defender, the Hornets found out the hard way what happens if you leave him open repeatedly.

Baynes led all Celtics starters with 10 points that came on 5-for-8 shooting from the field.

“I mean, you guys just haven’t seen me for the last couple of years; that’s all it is,” a chuckling Baynes said afterwards. “It’s one of those things. We have so many guys that demand attention, it gets some of us a lot of space to work with.”

And to Baynes' credit, he made the Hornets pay repeatedly with one wide open jumper after another.

But don’t think for a minute that Baynes didn’t remind folks at the TD Garden that it’s his defense more than anything else, that keeps him on the floor most nights.

“If you look at statistically, when he challenges shots vertically at the rim he’s really, really good,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He’s hard to score on. He’s a big strong guy now, and he is very capable shooting the ball as well. So his ability to knock down 15-17 footers off of those little pick-and-pops I thought was good for us, especially in that first 24 minutes when we were struggling for the ball to go in the basket.”

Baynes was very much a factor at both ends of the floor. But as much as his scoring stood out, the same could be said for his defense against Dwight Howard who at times appeared to lose his composure due to Bayne’s hard-nosed physical play.

On more than one occasion, Baynes and Howard had a few choice words for one another after some physical back-and-forth play which in each instance ended with Baynes grinning about it all.

“It’s fun. Everybody’s in preseason, getting used to it again,” Baynes said. “We’ve been hitting our teammates for so long that it’s fun to go out there and hit someone else’s teammates; so it’s all good.”

Making all those shots and still playing great defense at the rim?

It is definitely all good!

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Jerebko hoping for a winning return to Boston

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Jerebko hoping for a winning return to Boston

When Jonas Jerebko was with the Celtics, his play and performance often drew very little fanfare or notice from anyone other than his teammates and coaches. 
 
Now with the Utah Jazz and back in Boston for the first time, he is once again a low-key -- but important -- contributor. 

And it's a role that Jerebko doesn’t mind playing, in part because of his time in Boston. 

“It’s all about winning over there,” Jerebko told the Deseret News recently. “I had three great seasons there, going to the playoffs, Eastern Conference finals and a lot of winning, so I just learned that this league is about winning and that’s it.”
 
While that’s true, Jerebko’s role with the Jazz appears to be slightly more prominent than it was in Boston. 
 
In his two-plus seasons in Boston, Jerebko made six starts. We’re not even at Christmas yet in his first season in Utah and the 6-foot-10 forward has already had 10 starts for the Jazz.  He’s also averaging 6.3 points, which is more than he ever averaged in a full season for the Celtics. And he’s shooting a career-high 44.4 percent from 3-point range. 
 
The numbers are better in Utah, but Jerebko is more concerned with helping the Jazz (13-14) rack up a few more wins.
 
“It’s all about that win in that column, so that’s really what I learned in spending my time [in Boston],” Jerebko said. “It was a good time.”
 
Here are five under-the-radar story lines leading up to tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz. 


 
ROOKIE SHOWCASE
 
Fans are in for a treat tonight when two of the NBA’s top rookies will be on the floor. Boston’s Jayson Tatum, the NBA’s top 3-pointer shooter this season, has established himself as one of the top rookies in most categories. Meanwhile, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell has made a name for himself as one of the league’s best first-year players, evident by him averaging 17.8 points per game, which is tops among all rookies. 


  
3-POINT DEFENSE
 
Keep an eye on Boston’s 3-point defense. The Celtics come into tonight’s game limiting opponents to 33.8 percent on 3’s, which is the second-lowest average in the NBA. They face a Utah team that has been among the league’s best this season. The Jazz are shooting 38.3 percent from 3-point range, which ranks fifth in the league.


 
POINTS OFF TURNOVERS
 
Limiting their mistakes will once again be a key for the Celts because few teams capitalize on mistakes as well as Utah. The Jazz force 16.5 turnovers per game, which ranks second in the NBA. But more impactful is the points those turnovers produce. The Jazz come into tonight’s game having averaged 19.1 points off turnovers, which ranks fifth in the NBA. 


 
GORDON HAYWARD
 
This was supposed to be his first time facing his old team, but the dislocated left ankle injury he suffered on Oct. 17 has put him on the shelf for what’s expected to be the rest of this season. Still, that won’t prevent his former teammates from playing with a little extra something. As for the Celtics, they have had a tremendous amount of success against Utah at home which can only enhance their chances of winning tonight. 


 
KILLER SCHEDULE
 
While the Celtics are playing a ton of games before most teams in the NBA, the Jazz have their own scheduling nightmare to deal with. Specifically, the caliber of opponents that they have ahead of them is pretty daunting. They play the Celtics tonight followed by a road game against Cleveland on Saturday. From there, they face Houston and Oklahoma City on the road, then come home to take on the San Antonio Spurs (who now have Kawhi Leonard back in the mix). Including the Celtics game tonight, seven of Utah’s remaining games in the calendar year 2017 are against teams with an above-.500 record.

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WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Utah Jazz

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WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Utah Jazz

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics host the Jazz at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Slumping Jazz look to break long losing streak in Boston

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

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