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Celtics go big in win against Cavaliers

After talking about tinkering with the starting lineup, Brad Stevens replaced Marcus Morris with Aron Baynes in Cleveland.

NBA: Playoffs-Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

They weren’t exactly an eleven minutes of electrifying basketball, but they were solid in areas that you’d expect. The Celtics scored 52 points in the paint; for the season, they rank 23rd and average 44.8 PITP. Outside of one long-2, Al Horford scored all of his points in the restricted and finished the night with 19 points on an efficient 7-for-10 from the field. Aron Baynes made his two only shot attempts around the rim and was a plus-8 for the night.

“(Playing with Baynes) helps me a lot. He’s a great defender, always protecting the rim. It was good to play with him and I got to play with him a little more tonight than usual,” Horford said.

With two bigs, spacing isn’t exactly an issue. Baynes flattens out the defensive and pulls Kevin Love to the opposite block of Horford’s roll and Jayson Tatum finds Al for the alley-oop dunk.

Offensively, the Celtics had an anemic 91.3 OffRtg, but were stingy on defense with a 78.3 DefRtg. On Tuesday night, they rough housed with a front line that gave them problems last year in Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, and Larry Nance Jr., but in the often grit and grind atmosphere of the NBA Playoffs, pairing Horford and Baynes could pay dividends in the playoffs, particularly against potential match ups with Philadelphia (Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons), Milwaukee (Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo), and Toronto (Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam). Size will matter.

After the game, Brad Stevens said, “it will be a game-to-game decision who we start. I told our guys today, we need guys like [Marcus] Morris, who are flexible like that.”

It’s something that he had mentioned after the loss to the Spurs and as everybody starts to get healthy, Stevens will have more combinations to play with. Boston has an interesting scheduling quirk over their final eight games. In addition to the home-and-home with the Miami Heat next week, the Celtics have two remaining games against the Indiana Pacers whom they are chasing for home court advantage and the #4 seed in the East. Indy isn’t particularly big up front, but Stevens could opt to play Horford at the 4 to take advantage of his size. It’ll be an interesting chess match that starts Friday night in Boston in what is arguably their biggest game of the year.

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