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?
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!