For much of the season, Marcus Morris has held down a spot in the starting five until Brad Stevens made a change just over a week ago to insert Aron Baynes into the unit in place of Morris and it has paid dividends.
With Baynes teaming up with fellow big man Al Horford along with Marcus Smart, Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum, the starters have buoyed the C’s with strong starts, including in back-to-back wins over the Miami Heat.
Stevens has used 22 different starting lineups this season and while this unit appears to be working well together, especially recently, Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge, who spoke on his weekly radio hit with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich Thursday, isn’t putting too much stock into who is starting or coming off the bench.
“I don’t think it matters,” Ainge said. “Right now we’re starting big with the lineup that was successful last year and I think it’s doing well. There are going to be games and series where we need to be able to play different ways. We need to play with smaller lineups and bigger lineups. Series by series and even game by game in a series will determine who starts, who finishes and who plays the most minutes. Not worried about that.”
Like most C’s fans, Ainge was pleased by Gordon Hayward’s performance in Wednesday’s 112-102 road win over the Heat. Hayward netted a team-high 25 points to go along with eight rebounds and five assists, but most importantly he got to the free-throw line frequently, something he used to do at a high rate with the Utah Jazz before his gruesome injury in his debut with the Celtics last year.
Hayward showed a willingness to attack the basket, connecting on 12-of-13 free throws as the baker dozen attempts from the charity stripe was high for Hayward as a Celtic.
“It’s been a process,” Ainge said. “He’s been encouraged all year by Brad (Stevens) and by Scott Morrison, the coach that spends a lot of time with him, and by his teammates. Everybody’s been encouraging Gordon to get that swagger back and it was good to see that last night and get to the free throw line.”
Ainge also gave a little insight into the Jaylen Brown injury as Brown has missed the last two games with low back spasms.
“He just had one of those freaky back spasms. He reached down to pick up the ball,” Ainge said. “I’ve had that happen to me a few times in my career. It’s hard to explain but he has back spasms and they usually take a few days and we’re hoping he can be ready to go here soon.”
On if the C’s will have Brown available for a monster contest with the Indiana Pacers Friday with both teams jockeying for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, Ainge added, “I don’t know. When we get to Indianapolis, he’ll go work out and get some more treatment. He’s been diligent about getting his treatment, so we’ll see.”