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Aron Baynes is hitting triples and the Celtics are off to the Eastern Conference Finals
There are times throughout any individual's basketball career where they may find themselves at a crossroads.
Adapt your game or you'll be benched or even worse - out of the league.
To say Aron Baynes has adapted his game would be remiss - he has transformed his game and in doing so, helped the Boston Celtics progress through to a most unlikely Eastern Conference Finals berth.
The Celtics took care of Ben Simmons' 76ers today, winning the second round meeting 4-1 and the Celtics will now face LeBron's Cleveland Cavaliers for a spot in the NBA Finals.
This is a Celtics team without its two best players; Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
In the series-clinching Game 5, Baynes was impressive to say the least. He added 13 points (including one triple), nine rebounds (five offensive) and was a beast on the defensive end in 24 minutes of game time.
Prior to this season, Baynes had made just one triple in seven attempts in his entire NBA career (five seasons) - for those playing along at home, it came against, you guessed it, the Celtics in Boston on 30th November 2014.
In post-season action, he had attempted just ONE triple (he missed), before these 2018 playoffs.
2017-18 has seen Baynes extend his offensive range to the outside - and it is paying off.
Although his success from long-range was far from great throughout the regular season (3/21), the signs were there that he was at least willing to take them and his coaching staff wanted him taking them.
Baynes has simply been sublime from deep in the 2018 playoffs.
Through 12 playoff games, he has attempted 19 triples and made nine of them (47.4%). Against the Sixers, he went 7/16 (43.75%).
It's not so much even about the points he is scoring from the outside that makes this new-found range so important, it's that he is forcing the opposition big, in Philly's case; Joel Embiid, to come out of the paint and defend his outside shot.
This opens up new lanes for other players to get to the paint without the constant fear that Embiid is going to swat away their shot.
At first it was a novelty, but now Baynes needing to be guarded from deep is a legitimate scouting note.
It wasn't only on the offensive end that Baynes was making noise either. His incredibly solid defence helped Boston contain Embiid to reasonable numbers throughout the series and, when it mattered most in the clutch, Embiid just couldn't get it done.
Joel Embiid went 0-8 on game-tying or go-ahead shots in the final minute this season, including going 0-2 in Game 5
His 8 such attempts are tied for the most by any player without a made FG under those circumstances.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 10, 2018
Were there times when Embiid was too much for Baynes? Yes, of course there were. But the way in which Baynes continuously puts in the effort on defence, it helped to wear Embiid down.
With the game on the line, it was Baynes who stood between Embiid and the basket. Baynes won the battle and, as they say, the rest is history.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 10, 2018
Al Horford, who has led the Celtics to perfection this post-season, had this to say about Baynes after today's game.
"[He's] amazing. The way he prepares, the challenges he taken, because he's really had to change his game all year, he's extended his range - he's shooting threes now." Horford said.
"He's taken the challenge defensively - being our rim protector every night and I'm just so happy for him to see him have success at this level. Tonight, he was great for us."