Bobby Manning: The Celtics’ post-Jae Crowder small ball experiment has often dwindled down to rolling with Marcus Morris when he’s maintained health. Morris started vs. Orlando and played 26 minutes, mostly next to Al Horford on the interior where the Magic entered with ease for much of the game.
Easy baskets inside eventually opened the perimeter in one of the Celtics’ worst defensive performances of the season. The game teetered on disaster toward the fourth, when the Orlando lost its touch and fell from the mid 50s to 46 percent on the game with a 1-of-10 start.
The C’s struggled in the frame too even while drawing within single digits starting the quarter down 19. Jayson Tatum spent some time at the four, initiating a spark, but Morris filled most of the minutes.
Aron Baynes remains a point of contention, seemingly playing just four minutes in the loss because of his sinus infection. Stevens didn’t mention him post-game, but rather lauded offensive progress and mentioned defensive regression. The sways of success and failure both end hinge heavily on Baynes. His lineups boast defensive ratings of 77 (with Marcus Smart for Jayson Tatum) and 93.5 (starting lineup). Both lineups also feature 110+ offensive ratings, leading to +39.5 and +16.4 net ratings.
Stevens loves spacing, pace and small-ball but it’s hard to argue with the numbers. Boston’s second best defensive rating lineup, a small-ball group of Terry Rozier with Tatum at the four only post a 99.6 offensive rating. Small ball is great, but the numbers say Baynes lineups are more solid at both ends of the floor making it perplexing he plays only 18 minutes per game.