Aron Baynes and the Boston Celtics just keep on winning.
The Celtics defeated the Atlanta Hawks 119 – 110 on Friday night thanks to a dominant third quarter, one that saw them outscore their opponents by 21 points.
Baynes finished with 11 points (4 of 8 shooting from the field, 3 of 3 from the free throw line), 8 rebounds and 5 assists in 24 minutes. His assist total represents a new career high for the Australian.
Many expected Al Horford to take over playmaking responsibilities with Kyrie Irving out. While Horford did his part with 7 assists, Baynes was right there by his side as the Celtics big men combined for 12 assists on the night. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was lavish with praise for Baynes post game.
“I thought he was really good,” Stevens said. “Right out of the gate. He hits that jumper after popping off a screen. He was great around the rim. He’s been a huge part of our team with his ability to defend the rim and protect the paint.”
Without a number of regular contributors, Baynes stepped up and helped Boston secure their third consecutive victory. The Celtics were plus 26 during his minutes and he made a number of vital plays as Boston pulled away during the third quarter. Stevens added that the Celtics needed Baynes’ help in curtailing an Atlanta offence that scored 55 points in the first half.
“Today, we asked Baynes to get more out on the pick and roll because of the way Schroder was really lighting us up early."
Victory over a team with the worst record in the NBA might not sound like a noteworthy accomplishment, but these are trying times for Stevens’ men.
The Celtics, who are dealing with a number of injuries, took the floor against Atlanta with their most inexperienced team of the season. Kyrie Irving, Marcus Morris, Shane Larkin, Marcus Smart and, of course, Gordon Hayward were all out of the line-up due to injury. That left 10 active bodies, six of whom were rookies to battle the Hawks. Stevens spoke on the challenge of dealing with injuries and the opportunity it presents to his young roster.
“We talked about it at the start of the year,” Stevens explained. “We’re not going to lean on (our youth) as an excuse. We’re just gonna hopefully have everybody get ready for their chance, and when their chance comes, hopefully they maximize it.”
The Celtics were led by Terry Rozier, who put up 31 points in his second career start. All five starters scored double digits as Boston secured yet another trademark team victory.
Earlier in the day, the Celtics agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal with free agent center Greg Monroe. The former Phoenix Sun has been brought in to provide some depth to Baynes and the Celtics frontcourt.
There will be increased competition for minutes with Monroe in green, but if tonight is any indication, Baynes will be very hard to displace in the Celtics rotation.