BOSTON -- When you think of Aron Baynes having a big game for the Celtics, drawing charges, boxing out bigs and a few snatched rebounds are often what comes to mind.
But a double-double?
Baynes doesn’t play enough minutes to put up those numbers … until now.
The 6-foot-10 big man logged a season-high 33 minutes which was more than enough time for him to tally his first double-double of the season which was among the key factors in Boston edging Indiana, 114-112.
Baynes would finish the game with 13 points and 13 rebounds on 6-for-10 shooting from the field which included him draining his lone 3-point attempt of the night.
It was the third game in a row Baynes has played well north of 20 minutes, something that has been instrumental to Boston winning its last two games with lots of contributions from their “two-big” starting lineup which includes Baynes and Al Horford.
More than anything else, Baynes attributes his strong play of late with being healthy - something that has been an issue with him all season.
Coming into tonight’s game, Baynes has missed a total of 30 games this season with the Celtics having a pedestrian 16-14 record in his absence.
“It’s definitely fun to be healthy,” Baynes said. “It’s the right time to be ready and have everyone available. So I just try to take advantage … everyone does such a good job on this team of being ready when their number’s called and when we’re ready and play within Brad’s system, that’s when we look good and that’s when he makes you look good.”
And the pairing of him with a healthy Al Horford (19 points, seven rebounds, three blocked shots) has been the kind of 1-2 defensive punch the Celtics will need to finish out the regular season strong and go into the postseason with a better feel for having the kind of defensive identity they know they’ll need to have in order to continue to survive and advance in the playoffs.
“We just haven’t had him [Baynes] and Al healthy for very much of the year, so it’s been hard to play them together,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Plus, with all our depth on the wing, it’s hard to find minutes for everybody when those guys are playing together.”
In addition to scoring and rebounding the ball well, Baynes also did his part in helping his teammates like Kyrie Irving (30 points) get free for good looks at the rim as well.
Indiana’s Myles Turner does a good job at contesting shots, but Baynes’ presence in the middle made that a lot tougher.
“It was hard for him [Turner] to come over and commit to a few of our lay-ups which enabled me to get a few easy ones where he sealed Myles [off],” Irving said. “He did a great job tonight, just playing with that pace and playing with that … physicality to match theirs.”
For Boston to get back to being an elite team defensively, Stevens will have to continue finding ways to get both on the floor at the same time.
Both provide a strong interior presence defensively while showing they can also do a decent job when forced to switch out defensively on a smaller, quicker player.
Having that kind of size and defensive versatility is a luxury the Celtics have to do a better job of taking advantage of as they go forward.
“It’s nice to have them back, it’s nice to have them available,” Stevens said. “And we need to have that as an option moving forward.”
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