Aron Baynes

Pacers can score, C's can defend, so something’s gotta give

Pacers can score, C's can defend, so something’s gotta give

BOSTON – The foundation of this Celtics team lies in its defense, which finds itself being challenged in some form on a nightly basis.

The Indiana Pacers are the latest high-powered offense Boston will be tested by tonight.

Now, when folks think of high-scoring NBA teams, the Pacers (30-25) aren’t exactly one of the first that comes to mind.

But as their opponents this season will attest, the Pacers can get buckets.

Their 106.7 points per game ranks 12th in the NBA, but more telling is the efficiency by which they generate points.

Indiana generates 108.2 points per 100 possessions, which makes them the sixth-most efficient offense in the NBA, aided by the Pacers shooting 48.2 percent from the field.

Boston ranks among the league leaders in several defensive categories. But their success lies in their approach which they believe has to be established sooner than we’ve seen of late.

“We gotta come out with some fight,” Marcus Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “We gotta come out and hold our ground.”

Here are five under-the-radar storylines to keep an eye on as the Celtics host the Indiana Pacers tonight:

JAYSON TATUM IN THE FOURTH
Regardless of whether he’s scoring or not, good things tend to happen to the Boston Celtics when Jayson Tatum is in the game during the fourth quarter. The 6-foot-8 rookie has a plus/minus in the fourth quarter of +160 which leads all NBA players. The nearest player to him is Houston’s Chris Paul (+112) who is followed by Celtic guard Terry Rozier (+107).

BOSTON ON SECOND NIGHT OF BACK TO BACK
Fatigue is always a concern when talking about the second game of a back-to-back. For the Celtics, this has often been a time to flourish. They come into tonight’s game against the Pacers with a 6-3 record on the second night of a back-to-back set of games.

FREE THROWS
Boston will look to extend its streak of getting to the line more than its opponent to three games in a row tonight. Prior to that, Boston’s opponents got to the line more in 23 of the previous 28 games. Among those teams was the Pacers who were 30-for-38 from the line when Boston squeaked out a 112-111 road win. In that game, Boston was just 8-for-14 from the line. It was the first time since 2009 that Boston won a game after having an opponent make 22 or more free throws than they did.

BAYNES/MONROE SPLIT
The sample size for how Boston’s big-man tandem of Aron Baynes and Greg Monroe will work is as small as you can get – one game. But it is worth keeping tabs on going forward. Boston added Monroe in part because of his playmaking skills and ability to score around the basket which will allow Boston to rest Al Horford and Kyrie Irving at the same time and not necessarily have to stagger their minutes. But Baynes gives Boston an impact defensive presence in the paint, a big man who thrives defensively on being in the right spot at the right time. Boston has the league’s best defense and he’s a big part of that, evident by his defensive rating being a league-best 95.8. In their first game together, Baynes got the start and finished with two points, five rebounds and a defensive rating of 91.7 and an offensive rating of 114.3 in 14 minutes. Monroe came off the bench and scored five points to go with six rebounds, two assists, and two steals with a defensive rating of 87.1 and an offensive rating of 106.4 in 20 minutes.

JAYLEN BROWN
He continues to expand his game to the point where his impact is significant at both ends of the floor for Boston. His offense of late has become quite reliable with him hitting double figures scoring in five straight games, something he had not done since November. Against Washington, he had 18 points in addition to defending Bradley Beal who tallied 18 points but did so on 7-for-27 shooting. 

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Inconsistency leads Celtics to another disappointing loss

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Inconsistency leads Celtics to another disappointing loss

LOS ANGELES -- Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 108-107 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, which extended their losing streak to four in a row.

STARS

Kyle Kuzma: He’s not an All-Star, but he delivered an all-star worthy performance on Tuesday. He led the Lakers with 28 points off the bench while shooting 10-for-16 from the field.

Kyrie Irving: This was yet another game in which Irving played at an elite level only to come up short. He led all scorers with 33 points 13-for-24 shooting.

STUDS

Marcus Smart: While he may have come up short in missing the potential game-winner, Smart made a lot of winning plays at both ends of the floor. He would finish with 22 points on 7-for-13 shooting with eight assists and just one turnover.

Jordan Clarkson: One of the NBA’s better scorers off the bench, Clarkson tallied 22 points on 8-for-17 shooting to go with five rebounds and two steals while logging a team-high 34 minutes.

Julius Randle: His ability to control the action and impact the game around the rim, was huge. He had a double-double of 14 points and 14 rebounds while shooting 6-for-12 from the field.

Marcus Morris: His role as a primary scorer off the bench seems to be one well-suited for him. Morris finished with 13 points on 6-for-11 shooting along with seven rebounds and two blocked shots.

DUDS

Jayson Tatum: Just a bad night on so many fronts for Tatum. He had four points on 1-for-6 shooting with his lone made basket a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter.

Celtics rebounding:  Boston has had its share of rebounding struggles in the past, so it wasn’t all that surprising how they lost the battle of the glass. But the Lakers didn’t just beat them; they absolutely dominated them in a much more decisive manner than the final rebounding numbers – 51 for the Lakers, 42 for the Celtics – might indicate. The Lakers were especially effective on the offensive boards with 14 that led to 23, second-chance points.

Aron Baynes: The fact that he didn’t score wasn’t the problem. His struggles had more to do with his defense which wasn’t nearly as good as we’re accustomed to seeing. A big part of that had to do with foul trouble.

Free throw shooting: Boston hasn’t had a friendly whistle in quite a while, but Tuesday was one of the more glaringly obvious games in which the Celtics’ lack of free throw attempts was a major factor in the game’s outcome. Put it like this: The Lakers had more free throws by halftime (13) than the Celtics had for the entire game (10). The Lakers would finish 21-for-36 from the line while Boston was 8-for-10.

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Celtics-Pelicans preview: Boston depth will be tested by New Orleans big men

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Celtics-Pelicans preview: Boston depth will be tested by New Orleans big men

BOSTON -- Aron Baynes has a very light-hearted, funny demeanor and is often captured in games with a smile on his face.

But don’t get it twisted.

He’s 6-foot-11, weighs 260 or so pounds and is not afraid to mix it up and kick a little ass in the process.

That’s why the Boston Celtics have placed a high premium on what Baynes brings to the floor.

Rarely will there be regular season games in which his value will be greater than it is tonight when the Boston Celtics (34-10) put their seven-game winning streak on the line against a surging New Orleans squad led by their all-star big man tandem of DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis.

The duo has helped lead the Pelicans (22-20) to the sixth-best record in the West with wins in three of their last four games.

And while it’ll take all of the Celtics defensively to limit New Orleans’ 1-2 punch, the first hit will have to come from Baynes.

Baynes, whose 94.7 defensive rating is tops among all players averaging at least 18 minutes per game, understands the challenge that awaits him tonight.

“They’re both great players,” Baynes told NBC Sports Boston. “They have extensive abilities. You just have to go out there and play them and make things as tough as possible. They both have the ball in their hands a bit; both can create. But at the same time, they can both go out and make plays by themselves. So, it’s one of those things, it’s not individual defense. We’ll need team defense. That’s one thing we’ve been pretty good at most of the year. We really have to stay geared on that. It’s a five-man defensive effort for sure.”

He’s right.

Success tonight will involve multiple Celtics chipping in.

But the tone-setter for Boston defensively will have to be Baynes, a role that seems to be an expanded one from what he has been doing throughout his NBA career.

In his sixth NBA season, Baynes has been used primarily as a role player coming off the bench. Here with the Celtics, Baynes has made 32 starts compared to just 24 in his previous five seasons combined.

And his defensive rating has never been this good despite having it be less than 100.0 in two of the last three seasons.

Baynes keeps things fairly simple when it comes to playing defense.

“You know, you want to stay between your man and the basket,” Baynes said. “You want to make it as tough as you can. We’re playing against the best athletes in the world here who can make some incredible plays. What I’m trying to do is make it that much tougher for them.”

Baynes attributes the success he seems to have against most talented bigs, in part to the preparation by the coaching staff.

“We have great coaches here (that) watch so much film,” Baynes said. “They tell you (the opponent’s) tendencies, whatever you need to do for the upcoming game, they put you in great position. As long as you stay within the system, you’re usually in a pretty good spot. That’s what I try and do.”

Baynes’ emergence defensively has been among the keys to Boston’s defense which has been among the NBA’s top groups most of this season and currently have a league-best defensive rating of 99.6.

Jaylen Brown remembers talking with the Celtics coaching staff this summer about Baynes, a player Brown acknowledged he wasn’t too familiar with.

“They were excited about what he would add to the team,” Brown recalled.

And those talents will be needed tonight in dealing with Cousins and Davis, arguably the best 1-2 big man punch in the NBA.

“You have two of the best bigs in the league playing next to each other,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Both are supremely skilled. DeMarcus plays at the top of the key a lot, with the ball. He’s an isolation matchup problem there, as well as the block. And his ability to pass the ball, initiate offense has allowed them to play on a bunch of different, unique actions with another big. And obviously Davis and his ability to score the ball, his ability to roll to the rim, transition, all that stuff … they’re both very, very good.”

And the same can be said for Baynes defensively, acknowledging that it’s easier to focus most of his time and energy at that end of the floor based on the make-up of the Celtics’ roster.

“I still have moments where I can still look for my offense. But overall, I’m trying to make it easier for the other guys,” said Baynes who added, “I have complete confidence in my offense, but when you got Kyrie Irving on your team it doesn’t matter how good you think you are offensively.”

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