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The Read & React: Celtics bigs have big night

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With Greg Monroe’s arrival on the horizon, Boston’s trio of big men showed why they all deserve to still be in the rotation.

Atlanta Hawks v Boston Celtics Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Keith Smith: In a few days Greg Monroe will join the Celtics big man mix. For one last game against the Hawks, the current trio showed they already pretty good.

Al Horford has his usual quietly effective night with 17 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Every once and a while Horford makes a really loud play and gets everyone out of their seats. However, most of the time he kills you with silent efficiency. Be it scoring the ball, finding shooters and cutters with on-time passes or setting some of the best screens in the game, Horford is a savant on offense. And he’s no slouch on defense either. He’s constantly in the right spot He doesn’t get a ton of blocks or pile up rebounds, but he’s always challenging shooters and keeping skillful ball handlers from getting to the rim.

New York Knicks v Boston Celtics Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

Unusual tonight was Aron Baynes doing his best Horford impression. He finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Baynes primary value on offense has been his screen setting and occasional post scoring. But that sells him a little short, as he’s a good passer, one that has become adept at finding cutters or working the high-low game with Horford. He’s also a big paint clogger on defense and unafraid to do the dirty work inside.

Lastly, Daniel Theis continues to be one of the surprises of the season. He’s arguably the most athletic of the Celtics bigs and his defense against quicker big men has been an asset all year long. He’s also not afraid to challenge shots at the rim and to bang bodies inside. On offense, he runs the floor well, can get up for lobs and has started to stretch his range out past the arc over the last month plus.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Monroe will help Boston by giving them consistent inside scoring on the second unit. Having that for those stretches when nothing else is working is huge, especially come playoff time. He’s also going to be one of, if not, the best rebounders on the team. The Celtics went from having questionable big man depth entering the season, to now having a versatile, deep group. It will give Brad Stevens great options for the rest of the regular season and when it matters most, in what is hopefully a long playoff run.

Bobby Manning: Jaylen Brown quietly steered steadily through the whole game tonight with a solid, consistent effort. In a stroke of flare, he dished out two great passes on the run to Jayson Tatum in transition. For a player as good as Brown is on the break himself, if he can swing quality passes to teammates it’ll be a great niche for him.

Atlanta Hawks v Boston Celtics Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Brad Stevens challenged the team to pick up its pace in recent games and the combination of Terry Rozier and Brown had the C’s offense zipping. It’s called pace and space for a reason, and sometimes the space gets a little too emphasized. For Boston, Brown’s going to be a crucial factor in keeping a fairly inconsistent offense this year fast and aggressive. He’s also providing free throw attempts, another stat the team falls in the bottom half of the league in.