Celtics

Celtics' not-so secret weapon anymore - Baynes for 3...

Celtics' not-so secret weapon anymore - Baynes for 3...

CLEVELAND – As the media scrum mad their way on to the Quicken Loans Arena Saturday morning, there were a few Celtics players already on the floor getting up shots.

Among them was Aron Baynes, taking – and making – a lot of 3’s.

Upon first sight, it might seem a bit unusual to see the 6-foot-10, 260-plus pounder stroking it from long range.

But as we’ve seen with Baynes this season, teams will either learn the hard way or respect his shooting range which could become a factor in tonight's Game 3 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals with the Celtics coming in with a 2-0 series lead over the Cavaliers. 

Baynes comes in shooting 50 percent from 3 in the playoffs and isn’t afraid to take them.

His emergence as a viable 3-point shooting threat began in the preseason.

“When he first signed here, he came by in the preseason and was just shooting around,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens recalled. “I was down there with him. I just remember him hitting shot after shot after shot. It was mostly 15 to 17 feet.”

That led to a conversation about corner 3’s and above-the-break 3’s.

“He’s shot them every single day, through training camp, practice, through pre-game shooting and everything else,” Stevens recalled. “We’ve encouraged him to shoot all year especially from the corners.”

And he has made teams pay, evident by him making more corner 3s (eight) in the second-round series against the Sixers, than Philly’s entire team combined (five).

While there are many shocked at how Baynes has been shooting the 3-ball, don’t count him among those who didn’t see this coming.

“I’ve put in the work and I’ve put in the time, but like I say, ‘it’s not the number of one thing I work on,” he said. “It’s not the thing I spend the most time on. I’m always trying to expand my game, and in this day and age, its’ about trying to create space. And what better way than trying to step out there and knock down a few shots. But like I said, I’m not trying to live by it.”

Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s all-important Game 3:

JAYSON TATUM


Tatum, 20 can move into sole possession of fourth place on the NBA’s all-time leaders list of playoff starts for a rookie. He’s currently tied with Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio, 2012) and Nate McMillan (Seattle, 1987). The only players ahead of him are Matt Maloney (Houston, 1997) with 16, ex-Celtic Courtney Lee (Orlando, 2009) with 17 and Richard Dumas (Phoenix, 1993) with 20.

JAYLEN BROWN


The Celtics are a diversified bunch when it comes to scoring, but lately, the hot hand from the outset of games has been Jaylen Brown. He comes into tonight’s Game 3 matchup having averaged 13.5 points per game in the first quarter of this series.

TURNOVERS


Boston has done a nice job of not allowing their turnovers to have a significantly adverse effect on the game. There’s a reason for that. Of the 17 turnovers Boston has committed, only six were live-ball miscues. That means their mistakes did not immediately allow the Cavs to get out in transition which has been a factor in Cleveland’s scoring not coming as freely and consistently as they would hope.

BALANCED ATTACK


Boston comes into tonight’s game with four players averaging 17 or more points per game. That hasn’t been done by a Celtics team since 1987. The four current Celtics averaging at least 17 points per game are Jayson Tatum (18.1), Jaylen Brown (17.8), Terry Rozier (17.4) and Al Horford (17.1). The four Celtics in 1987 were Larry Bird (27.0), Kevin McHale (21.1), Dennis Johnson (18.9) and Robert Parish (18.0).

DEFENDING JAMES


The Celtics’ team defense has been praised for how they have managed to limit LeBron James’ efficiency in this series. While he’s easily the best scorer in this series – most series for that matter – Boston has made it a lot harder than he’s accustomed to, to get buckets. He’s shooting 46.7 percent from the field in the two games against Boston. Of the four Celtics who have defended James for at least 10 possessions in this series, three (Marcus Morris, Semi Ojeleye and Terry Rozier) have limited him to a lower shooting percentage than what he’s averaging for the series.

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After torching Celtics, Donovan Mitchell headed north of Boston

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File Photo

After torching Celtics, Donovan Mitchell headed north of Boston

First, Donovan Mitchell dropped 28 points on the Celtics as his Utah Jazz won their second game over Boston in as many weeks, holding them to a season-low point total in the process.

Then, the buregoning superstar swung up I-93 to North Andover to cheer on his sister, Jordan, in her girls' soccer contest Sunday morning with his alma mater Brewster Academy:

The Bobcats fell to MacDuffie (Mass.), 1-0, in the NEPSAC Class C championship on the campus of Brooks School.

Mitchell, a New York native, spent the final two years of his high school career on the Wolfeboro, N.H.-based Brewster campus, as famous for its scenic overlook of Lake Winnipesaukee as it is its incredible pipeline of basketball players to high-major college programs and the NBA. Over the last two decades the Bobcats' post-graduate team has featured numerous players who went on to the NBA, including Thomas Robinson, Mitch McGary, Will Barton, T.J. Warren, JaKarr Sampson and Jeff Adrien.

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What to like, not like about the Celtics' loss to the Utah Jazz

What to like, not like about the Celtics' loss to the Utah Jazz

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics were in catch-up mode during most of their Saturday night home loss to the Utah Jazz. It was a game that dropped Boston to 9-7 overall and raised some serious concerns about where this team is now and more important, its direction going forward.

“We have to build a tougher team mindset than we have,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said after Saturday’s loss. “I mean, we just don’t have that mindset yet that we need.”

While no one is panicking, there is a clear and undeniable heightened level of concern within the locker room.

MORE CELTICS

But with most defeats, there are a few silver linings to latch on to as well as areas in clear need of fixing.

So, about last night …

WHAT WE LIKED

BOARD IT UP: Rebounding continues to be a choose-your-own-adventure proposition for the Boston Celtics, showing signs of being dominant one night and dormant the next. Saturday night was one of the Celtics’ better nights when it came to rebounding the ball, winning the rebounding battle 51-45. It wasn’t like a late-game surge when the game was out of reach, either. Boston was either tied or led in rebounding after each quarter except the first. To do that against a Utah team that has been among the best rebounding clubs this season is a definite positive.

YABA, DABBA DO!: Guerschon Yabusele didn’t get on the floor until the game was out of reach, but Celtics fans – and the coaching staff – certainly had to like what they saw. In nine minutes, he had nine points and a couple rebounds as well as two steals. It was the kind of performance that, if we see Yabusele on the court more consistently in the coming days, we’ll come back to as being the jumping off point for his emergence as a contributor this season.

KYRIE IRVING: He didn’t torch the Utah Jazz like he did the Toronto Raptors on Friday night, scoring 20 points against the Jazz compared to 43 against the Raptors. But what Irving did that stood out was his shooting. He got his 20 points on 8-for-16 shooting, giving him a season-best three consecutive games in which he shot 50 percent or better from the field.

WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE

COSTLY FREE THROWS: There’s a pretty long laundry list of things that did not go Boston’s way in Saturday’s loss, most of which the Celtics had control over. Of all those things, nothing stood out more than their struggles at the free throw line. For the game, Boston wound up shooting a season-low 55 percent from the line. That number would have been a lot worst if not for head coach Brad Stevens emptying the bench as the game seemingly got away from them in the latter stages of the third quarter and all of the fourth, which is when Boston’s reserves knocked down their free throws, which raised Boston’s free throw percentage to the above-.500 threshold.

LIVE AND DIE BY THE 3-BALL: Three-point shooting continues to be a feast or famine proposition for the Celtics this season. The Celtics connected on a season-low 15.2 percent (5-for-33) of their 3-pointers against the Jazz. Boston’s struggles weren’t just a starter or reserve-based issue, evident by Boston’s first unit connecting on just three of its 16 three-pointers taken, and the second unit (2-for-17) proving to be even worse.

IRVING ISLAND: For far too many stretches of play Saturday night, Irving looked very much like a man on an island surrounded by an ocean full of sharks donning Jazz jerseys. He scored 20 points on 8-for-16 shooting. And it’s not like Irving was not being a willing passer. He had a team-best 64 touches against the Jazz, passing the ball 45 times but only tallying just three assists in large part because teammates were missing open to lightly contested shots.

WHAT'S NEXT

Boston hits the road to face a 7-8 Charlotte team on Monday that has lost three of its last four games. The most recent loss was an overtime defeat to Philadelphia in which Kemba Walker scored a career-high 60 points. As we’ve seen repeatedly this season, opposing team’s best scorers have seemingly had a field day knocking down shots against the Celtics. And like Boston, the Hornets will also look to make their mark from long range as they come into Monday's game averaging 12.2 made 3’s per game which ranks 5th in the NBA.

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