Aron Baynes and the Celtics stomp on Cleveland in Game 1

Aron Baynes' Celtics put on a basketball exhibition as they outclassed, outmuscled and outplayed Cleveland from start to finish in the 25-point demolition. Boston led the Cavaliers by 18 points at the end of the first period and pushed away to lead by 26 at half time.

Brad Stevens’ men were playing with confidence and were hitting their shots (making 11 three pointers), while Cleveland struggled from the field all night, finishing with 4-for-26 from deep. LeBron James and the Cavaliers were able to bring that margin back to 14 by the end of the third period, but Boston made quick work of that in the fourth, blowing the game out and taking a commanding 1-0 lead in the series.

Baynes was important for Boston, finishing with 4 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 block, while also recording a plus-minus of +17. Baynes was huge during the first half as Cleveland struggled for any offensive momentum, scoring only 35 points.

As they were struggling to make their shots, Baynes’ eight boards meant that Cleveland rarely got an extra look on a possession as Stevens’ defensive system sucked all life out of the the Cavaliers offence. Boston ended up winning the rebounding contest on the night 48-40, restricting Cleveland to only nine offensive rebounds.

Baynes finished the contest with only two fouls and zero turnovers as the Celtics gave LeBron James and Cleveland no chance of getting back into the contest. Most impressive however was his ability to switch onto LeBron in double teams, in an attempt to stifle the Cleveland superstar. It worked magnificently as LeBron finished the game with only 15 points and 7 turnovers!

Baynes was extremely efficient on both ends of the floor on Monday morning, while being used in a multitude of ways. In fact, before the game, it was announced that Marcus Morris would start, in place of Baynes, to better matchup with Cleveland and their big men. Baynes took it in his stride, as he’s done all year.

Baynes’ efficiency and flexibility is certainly something which has caught the eye of his coach. Before the game, Stevens was asked about Baynes and his role on the Celtics, to which he said:

“We’ve done this with Baynes all year against certain matchups. He knows that obviously [Kevin] Love at the five is a unique coverage, and then just as many versatile guys out there to guard LeBron (James) and the other guys on the court.”

Stevens was then asked to comment on Baynes’ role as a leader in this team, to which he replied:

“I’ve said this not enough times: you can’t have better leaders than Al [Horford] and Baynes. You can’t,” Stevens said. “They’re both our two oldest players, they’re totally selfless, they’re totally in it for the team, they wrap their arms around young guys. It’s as good as it gets. So being able to take him in and out of the lineup has set a great example for everybody else.”

The 31 year old Australian is in the midst of arguably his best season in the NBA and this high praise from Stevens should do him no harm, heading into this offseason’s free agency. Baynes’ contract with Boston ends at the completion of this season and is set to test the waters come July 1st.

This season, Baynes averaged 6 points and a career high 5.4 rebounds per game, while playing in a career high equaling 81 games. Baynes is certainly not the flashiest center in the league by any stretch. But the big man sticks in his lane and plays to his strengths, something almost every team in the NBA could use.

Aron Baynes and the Boston Celtics play again on Wednesday morning, 16 May 2018 10.30am AEST as they face the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 2 of this series.