Celtics

Stars, studs and duds: Baynes delivers with Horford out

Stars, studs and duds: Baynes delivers with Horford out

BOSTON – When the Boston Celtics signed Aron Baynes, they did so because of his toughness, his physicality and his overall awareness defensively.

But in the short time he has been with the Celtics, he has shown that he can deliver in other areas as well – namely scoring.

With Al Horford (concussion protocol) out, Baynes stepped up and delivered his best scoring game of the season in helping Boston keep its league-best winning streak alive with a 107-96 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Baynes finished with a career-high-tying 21 points as Boston (10-2) won its 10th straight game after beginning the season with back-to-back losses.

And while it was yet another all-hands-on-deck kind of game for the Celtics, there’s no mistaking the importance of Baynes’ play.

“Aron was great,” said coach Brad Stevens. “He did a good job rolling all night, and sealing, and finishing in and around the paint. Had a couple of put-backs, and did a good job.”

Even though Baynes had one of the greatest scoring nights of his career – he has scored 20 or more points just three times in 300-plus games in the NBA – he credits much of his success offensively against the Lakers to his teammates.

“I think we are just great creators on this team,” Baynes said. “I just found myself in the right position, I was just trying to make the right play and trying to finish as best I could. It’s a compliment to the other guys on the team getting me the ball in great position; Marcus (Smart), Kyrie (Irving) all those guys looking for me and I appreciate it.”

Here’s a look at the Stars, Studs and Duds from Wednesday’s 107-96 win by Boston over the Los Angeles Lakers who have now lost four straight to the Celtics – something that has not happened since the mid-1970s.

STARS

Aron Baynes: You figured he would play more with Al Horford (concussion) out, but no one could have anticipated the 6-foot-10 big man would show out like he did on Wednesday. Baynes had a career-high-tying 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting to go with eight rebounds and three assists – similar production to what Horford has delivered most of this season.

Jordan Clarkson: Always an aggressive scorer, Clarkson was instrumental in the Lakers rallying to make the game close in the second half which is when he scored 11 of his team-high-tying 18 points.

Kyrie Irving: He did not shoot the ball well (7-for-21), but delivered a slew of mesmerizing plays with the ball and still managed to score 19 points to go with six rebounds and five assists.

Brandon Ingram: He did a nice job most of the game generating offense for himself as well as contributing on the boards. He finished with 18 points on an efficient 7-for-11 shooting along with grabbing seven rebounds.

STUDS

Marcus Morris: Making his second start of the season, Morris was a difference-maker during his time on the floor. He would score a season-high 18 points on 7-for-15 shooting and do so in under 25 minutes of playing time.

Julius Randle: It seems no matter who the opponent, Randle plays with a high energy level coming off the bench. He had 16 points on 5-for-9 shooting while playing just over 21 minutes. He was the only Lakers player to have a positive plus/minus (+5) on Wednesday.

DUDS

Lakers veterans: The Lakers don’t play their veterans much, so when they do get on the floor they need to make an impact. That was not the case on Wednesday with Corey Brewer and Andrew Bogut combining to score just three points on 1-for-5 shooting but just as significant, Los Angeles had a plus/minus of -10 when Brewer was on the floor and -12 when Bogut played. Their ineffective play was just one of the many issues that factored into the Lakers loss.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Marcus Smart makes the Celtics great again

Marcus Smart makes the Celtics great again

Two games in and the return of Marcus Smart has had the effect many predicted it would for Boston.

There may be other Celtics who score more points, tally more assists and snare a few more rebounds.

But the impact of Smart’s play on what truly matters – winning – is undeniable.

His play was one of the keys to Boston’s 121-112 win at New York on Saturday night.

Smart came off the bench to score 11 points to go with five assists and three steals.

In his two games back, Smart is averaging 11.5 points, 5.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals while shooting 64.3 percent from the field.

Yes, it’s a small sample size for sure.

More than anything, it serves as a reminder of how one of Smart’s greatest assets as a player is his ability to contribute in a multitude of ways.

“He just adds a lot of versatility to our offense and our defense,” Boston’s Kyrie Irving told NBC Sports Boston following Saturday’s game. “He has a high awareness on both ends. He’s able to create opportunities for all of us at both ends of the floor and we appreciate that.”

Certainly Smart is credited for being a good defender, and his play-making skills have improved dramatically in the last year or so.

But arguably Smart’s biggest contribution is that his play allows others around him, to focus on whatever it is that they do well, knowing that Smart has the ability to do both his job as well as provide help when needed.

Boston’s defense struggled mightily before the break with teams scoring seemingly whenever they wanted to.

But in the last two games, Boston has looked more like the defensive unit that has been among the NBA’s best most of this season.

In the last two games, Boston’s defensive rating has been 104.5 which ranks 11th in the NBA during that span.

Several factors have played a role in Boston’s improved defense the last two games; among them being the return of Smart who missed 11 games after punching a picture frame last month that left him with 20 stitches.

“It’s the appreciation of Marcus Smart right there,” Irving said. “Implement him and him just putting his stamp and identity on our team as well. It just makes a lot of other guy’s job, easier. Because he covers up a lot of our mistakes as well as playing with unbelievable awareness at both ends of the floor. He understands spacing, he understands how the little things matter.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Kyrie is not happy with Zaza Pachulia

02142018_kyrie_post_1920x1080.jpg
File Photo

Kyrie is not happy with Zaza Pachulia

The Celtics defeated the Knicks in a game that had a little bit of everything Saturday night.

Kyrie Irving led the Celtics to victory and dominated in all of the important situations.

But he came out of the night a little pissed off.

During the Warriors-Thunders game tonight, Russell Westbrook drove to the paint and fell to the ground.

After Westbrook fell to the ground Zaza Pachulia appears to intentionally fall on to the back of his legs.

The play irritated Irving enough for him to air out his thoughts publicly on Instagram.