Aron Baynes isn’t going to get a lot of pub in this series. In two games, he’s played only 39 minutes as a starter and is a +1 (-3 in Game 1, +4 in Game 2) so far in the opening round. His six points on Tuesday night were six more than he scored in Sunday’s opener and he’s pulled down as many rebounds as shooting guard Jaylen Brown. Despite his lack of statistical impact on the series, Brad Stevens went out of his way to compliment the big man:
“He just wants to win. That’s one of the things I’ve always appreciated about him. We’ve got a locker room full of those guys.”
You’ve got big fans here at CelticsBlog too, Baynesie.
If you look at the substitution patterns, Baynes plays primarily when his Bucks counterpart, John Henson, is on the floor. Neither are floor-stretching 5’s. They’re rim protectors, but in this series, Baynes’ job is much more difficult because of the all singing, all dancing, all driving Giannis Antetokounmpo. Because Henson is usually lurking around the baseline for drop off passes and offensive rebounds, Baynes can patrol the interior and wall off the restricted area from deer crossing. That’s easier said than done.
You look at Game 2’s box score and Giannis’ numbers jump off the page. He had a super efficient 30 points on just seventeen shots with 9 rebounds and 8 assists. His shot chart looks like Deadshot’s range target in Suicide Squad; everything’s in the paint (7-for-7 in the restricted area) and he was uncharacteristically hitting fall away jumpers all night. In the regular season, Giannis shot 38% inside the paint (not counting bunnies at the rim); in Game 2, he was 7 for 8. But don’t focus on the seven made mid-range shots. It’s the eight that he took that didn’t end up at the rim that’s important.
Sure, he was making them, but for the Celtics, what’s more important is that he was taking them. They’ll live with those results. Brad Stevens put it simply in his post game presser: The Greek Freak is “impossible to guard.” While most of the credit belongs to Al Horford--yes, “credit” because it could be much worse--Aron Baynes has done some of the heavy lifting, too.
I love in that first clip from the first quarter when Baynes cuts Antetokounmpo off at the free throw line with some nimble footwork. You can hear the crowd roar a little bit as if a matador staved off the bull’s first pass. Olé!
Baynes isn’t an Antetokounmpo stopper, but he’s a good deterrent like sun screen or bug spray are good deterrents. The Greek Freak is going to eat, but if the Celtics can limit his portions, the Bucks have to turn to their non-shooting, non-passing half court offense for points. The numbers (+/-, DefRtg, etc.) don’t exactly bear it out, but consider that Baynes’ playing time from Game 1 to Game 2 went up a whopping nine minutes (and Game 1 went to overtime); Baynes only played 24+ minutes in eleven games in the regular season. The Celtics need him on that wall vs. Milwaukee. We’re going to see much more of all of Australia.