PHILADELPHIA – If you’ve been paying attention to the highlights from this Boston-Philadelphia playoff series, there’s a good chance you’ve seen Aron Baynes getting dunked on a time or two by Joel Embiid.
It gets the fans fired up in the arena, not to mention its social media potential.
But here’s the thing about Baynes.
While he may be the one victimized in those made-for-TV dunks by Embiid, watching Baynes more closely reveals a big man whose game is of the made-for-winning variety.
And so as the Boston Celtics look for a series sweep tonight, the play of Baynes has been one of the more critical elements to Boston’s success in this series.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens is well aware of the attention-grabbing plays involving Baynes getting dunked on.
“It’s pretty easy,” Baynes said. “I don’t watch any of the ESPN or SportsCenter … I don’t watch any of that during the playoffs. I’m focused on what one group of people think and that’s the group inside this locker room. I’m trying to do the best I can to help those guys out.”
And he has, all season which is evident by Boston finishing with the league’s top defensive rating and Baynes finishing with the best defensive rating (97.0) among all players who saw action in at least 50 games.
“It’s interesting, because all you see are the highlights of the dunks on Baynes,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “You don’t see the thousands of times he stops the ball. He just doesn’t care if he ends up on a highlight. All he cares about is doing his job well. And his job is to try and stop somebody from scoring, and do it vertically without fouling. He’s unbelievable at it; he’s one of the best in the league at it. And his mindset is tremendous. We greatly benefit from that.”
Here are five under-the-radar storylines to keep an eye on heading into tonight’s elimination game between the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers.
BALLIN’ BOTH WAYS
The Celtics have been at their best at both ends of the floor during this series, and that’s not just hyperbole, either. Boston has an offensive rating of 110.1 and a defensive rating of 100.5. They are the only playoff team in the second round of the playoffs that ranks among the top three in both categories.
If there was ever such an award as playoff rookie of the year, Jayson Tatum would be a runaway winner. He’s averaging 24.3 points per game which is tied for the fifth-highest scoring average for second-round play. The closest rookie to him is Donovan Mitchell whose 17.3 points in this round of the playoffs ranks 15th in the league among rookies.
ROZIER AND THE LONG BALL
Terry Rozier has been one of Boston’s best scorers in this series against Philadelphia, with a sizeable chunk of his points coming from 3-point range. In the second round of the playoffs, nobody has been knocking down 3’s the way Rozier has. He comes into tonight’s Game 4 matchup averaging 4.3 made 3-pointers per game which is tops among all players since the second round of the playoffs began.
Apparently, the third try really is the charm; at least it is for Marcus Smart when it comes to finding the best splint for his surgically repaired right thumb. Smart said he is now on his third different splint. “I think this is the one,” Smart told NBC Sports Boston. The splint he’s wearing now was the same one he wore when he scored 19 points in Boston’s Game 2 win and the same one he wore in Boston’s Game 3 victory as well. “I’m sticking with it. We shaved it down, made some modifications to it … it’s as perfect as we’re going to get it.” The two splints he had prior to his current one, Smart was 9-for-35 shooting. In the last two last games with the new splint, he’s averaged 14 points while shooting 10-for-24 (41 percent) from the field.
CELTICS AND PLAYOFF SWEEPS
A win tonight will be the sixth 4-0 sweep for Boston in a best-of-seven series. It would be the first since they swept the New York Knicks in the first round of the 2011 playoffs.