Celtics

The difference for Celtics in Game 5? It starts with Baynes

The difference for Celtics in Game 5? It starts with Baynes

BOSTON – As the Celtics faithful poured out of the TD Garden following Boston’s 96-83 Game 5 win over Cleveland on Wednesday, there was plenty of praise for Jayson Tatum’s big scoring night.

Al Horford got some love for his double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds while two Marcuses – Smart and Morris – each delivered a baker’s dozen worth of points.

Still, the difference-maker for Boston was Aron Baynes, who provided the kind of defensive presence - and some timely baskets early on - that proved to be exactly what the Celtics needed to take a 3-2 series lead and maybe just as important, position Boston a win away from a trip to the NBA Finals.

Baynes was back in the starting lineup in large part because the Cavaliers were no longer playing a small-ball unit to start games as they inserted Tristan Thompson in with the first group while Kyle Korver came off the bench.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens rolled with Morris ahead of Baynes for the first four games, but it was clear that the Celtics had to make a change to better compete with Cleveland’s size and muscle.

Stevens had remained coy on the change, which wasn’t revealed until Baynes’ name was announced as one of the starters.

And Baynes, similar to other Celtics this season when given a larger platform to perform, made a significant impact that went far beyond his six points and seven rebounds.

“We’ve got a lot of tough guys on our team, but I think they will all tell you Baynes is one of the toughest we’ve been around,” Stevens told reporters on a conference call Thursday.

Boston wound up winning the battle on the boards 45-39, which included limiting the Cavs to just three offensive rebounds. That would factor heavily in Boston having a decisive 15-5 advantage when it came to second-chance points.

“One of the things about our team, when someone’s number is called we step up and try to play within the system,” Baynes said. “It starts on the defensive end for us. We’re just trying to get back and be big. We haven’t been as long as we had been in the last few series up until this point. That was a focus for us, to look big, to pack the paint and make them have more of an outside effort.”

Although Horford was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive second team on Wednesday while Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown also getting some votes, Baynes’ presence has been the key to Boston finishing the regular season with a league-best defensive rating of 101.5.

And individually, Baynes’ 97.0 defensive rating was tops among all players in the NBA with at least 50 games played this season.

“Baynes is a really good defender,” Stevens said. “He helps in a ton of different ways. I thought he did a good job getting to the ball off the glass and getting tip-ins. The purpose for that change was we're going to have to play big some. We wanted to play big a little bit more. But it was more to get two wings off the bench so that we could then rotate our wings with basically quick breaks around the timeouts if we could, because we knew we were going to play those guys a lot of minutes tonight.”

Stevens is referring to Morris (37 minutes) and Smart (24 minutes), who each scored 13 points.

As important as their contributions were to the win, it was the reinsertion of Baynes into the starting lineup that proved to be the one move made by Boston that ultimately put them over the top in Game 5 and even more significant, has them on the cusp of a trip to the NBA Finals.

“Stay locked in. That’s what it’s about for us,” Baynes said. “We know what’s gotten us to this point and we need to keep doing that. It starts on the defensive end for us and playing within Brad’s system. And offensively, getting the right shots; not trying to do it by yourself, do it with five guys. That’s what it’s about this time of year.”

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Celtics-Pacers simulation: Can Kemba Walker, C's keep up their hot streak?

Celtics-Pacers simulation: Can Kemba Walker, C's keep up their hot streak?

The NBA season has been put on hold due to the coronavirus crisis, meaning we have to wait a while to watch the Boston Celtics again.

As a way to make up for the loss of Celtics action, we'll be using the NBA 2K20 video game to simulate each game on the schedule until they finally return.

PREVIOUS FIVE SIMULATIONS

The Celtics were supposed to take on the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night. Here's how our simulation of that game went:

CELTICS STATS

Kemba Walker (28 points) and Gordon Hayward (19 points) carried the load offensively in what ended up being one of the lowest-scoring games for the Celtics in their past few simulations, which just goes to show how on fire they've been. They shined on the defensive end, tallying eight total steals and eight blocks.

With the game pretty much in hand, the C's second unit played for the entire fourth quarter. Rookie Romeo Langford was solid in his 12 minutes, contributing nine points, a steal, and an assist.

PACERS STATS

This was a disastrous offensive performance by the Pacers as they were unable to get any semblance of momentum throughout the contest. Malcolm Brogdon struggled from the field but was able to get nine of his 17 points from the free-throw line. Domontas Sabonis was the only real bright spot as he shot 7-for-10 from the field for 16 points while bringing down nine rebounds.

TEAM STATS

All you need to do is look at the field goal percentages and 3-point percentages (ZERO for Indiana!) to figure out what happened here. Boston dominated in pretty much every other major category too, despite possessing the ball for nine minutes less than the Pacers.

FINAL SCORE: Celtics 101, Pacers 77

Four games remain in the NBA 2K Celtics' regular-season schedule as they ride a 12-game win streak into their matchup vs. the Orlando Magic. Can they extend the streak to 13? Check back Friday to find out.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Mike Gorman debates the best trades in C's history

Celtics Talk Podcast: Mike Gorman debates the best trades in C's history

With no Boston Celtics basketball on the docket for a while due to the coronavirus pandemic, there's no better time to reminisce on some of the greatest moves in the team's history.

NBC Sports Boston's longtime Celtics play-by-play voice Mike Gorman joined the latest Celtics Talk Podcast to discuss the best trades the organization has made. Of course, the ones for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen that formed the "Big Three" immediately come to mind. But to Gorman, the best deal in franchise history is a no-brainer.

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Gorman's No. 1 Celtics trade ever is the one that brought the great Bill Russell to Boston.

When Red [Auerbach] got Russell -- I mean, when you pull off a trade where you get three Hall of Famers in the first round of the draft, 'cause K.C. Jones was on the tail end of that and nobody talks about him. Tommy [Heinsohn] was the rookie of the year. And you get Bill Russell, who goes on to win 11 championships and is MVP five times.

That's got to be the best trade ever for Ed Macauley who was a good player but certainly not a great player. And Cliff Hagan who was a good player but not a great player. Neither one of those guys was going to do anything anywhere near what Bill Russell did to the Celtics. I think the Russell trade has to be the best trade maybe in the history of sports.

The runner-up? That would be the deal 40 years ago that landed Hall of Famers Robert Parish and Kevin McHale.

Again, it was a situation where Red traded and ended up with two Hall of Famers and gave up Joe Barry Carroll whose whole career was a massive disappointment. You would have thought that no one would deal with Red again [after the Russell trade] ... But yeah, to get Kevin McHale and Robert Parish in a draft, and both of them end up going to the Hall of Fame, and you gave up a guy again who had a marginal career ... 

Gorman also discussed what he's been up to in quarantine, as well as what the Celtics' ceiling is if/when the season resumes.

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