I'm sitting here a day after the Celtics pulled out yet another victory over the LA Lakers 107-96 at TD Garden last night. After a rough start to the season with All-Star Gordon Hayward's gruesome injury and an 0-2 start the young Celtics have rattled off 10 straight wins. Question is how?
First off the talk of the off season was how the Celtics lost most of their depth in exchange for a ball hogging point guard. I have love for Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and IT as much as anyone else, but yet again Danny Ainge is proving yet again that he is a true architect and one of the best GM's in the NBA. Last night the Celtics bench and role players came up big all over the court.
Al Horford had to sit out due to a concussion and Jayson Tatum only logged 9 minutes after he rolled his ankle. Brad Stevens and the Celtics NEEDED production off the bench to have a chance against the young and talented Lakers.
Here are some of the role players that stepped up and showed the Celtics may be deeper than you all thought...
Aron Baynes puts in a career night
Baynes and his man bun were absolutely unstoppable. Stevens has raved on his defensive presence but he also exploded offensively. He tied a career high in points (21) on 8-12 shooting along with 8 boards and 3 assists. Baynes was filling in for injured starter Al Horford (concussion) and owned the night. He was tasked with guarding Brook Lopez and Andrew Bogut and held them to a combined 10 points. The fifth year center from Washington State seems comfortable in Boston and has shown he can step up and deliver when the team needs him too.
Point Guard Kyrie Irving on Baynes Performance
“He did a great job on Brook Lopez. It was tough for Brook to be out here,”
“We’re starting to rebound and understanding the Baynes is a bruiser down low. We’ve got to feed him the ball.”
Marcus Morris continues to impress as he heals up
Marcus was the main trade asset received when they shipped Avery Bradley to Detroit. When the season began Marcus was stuck on the bench for the first 8 games due to some knee sorness. Since his return, his production and minutes have been on a steady climb.
OKC 11/3: 18 mins 9-4-1 .475
ORL 11/5: 23 mins 12-7-1 .400
LAL 11/8: 25 mins 18-1-2 .467
Morris has a minutes restriction around 22-25 minutes for the time being and is still experiencing some soreness in his knee. However, if he continues to heal and perform at this level he looks to have a promising season. The Celtics and the fans are eager to see more of Marcus but they are playing it smart and getting him to 100%.
Head coach Brad Stevens on Baynes minute restriction
"We're still trying to manage his minutes appropriately. He played more (against the Lakers) than he had played in either of the two previous games." "It was hard to take him out, because he really impacted the game, because he could post when they were playing small."
Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart continue to contribute off the bench
The two point guards have been coming off the bench this year, but have both been playing over 20 minutes per game.
Terry is an incredible athlete and an excellent rebounder for a point guard. He is averaging 5.2 boards a game along with 9.4 points. Last night he logged 14 points along with 8 rebounds in 28 minutes.
Marcus Smart prides himself on defense and that has been his staple since entering the league from Oklahoma State. He plays all out whenever he steps on the court. Last night Marcus put up 9 points with 4 rebounds and 6 assists and one beautiful block on Lonzo Ball late in the second quarter.
With Al Horford likely to miss the next few nights as he goes through the NBA concussion protocol the Celtics are likely to go small. Thrusting Marcus and Terry into even more minutes helping them grow and mature.
The new German guy
The Celtics called on Daniel Theis last night where he played a career high in minutes last night (22) and he came to play. From opening tip he was a force defensively and played with emotion bringing energy to the Celtics. He logged career highs in rebounds (5) and steals (2) along with 8 points on 50% shooting. The 25 year old from Germany is currently in his rookie NBA season and certainly made a statement last night.
The growth of Jaylen Brown
Jaylen Brown has been absolutely UNSTOPPABLE this year. Toward the end of the year we all saw spurts and flashes of production but he has really transcended his game this off season. The second year man out of Cal has more than doubled his PPG (6.6-14.8) and RPG (2.8-6.8) this is in large part to his increase in minutes as result of the Hayward injury, but you can tell he worked on his game and is much more confident.
Celtics look like a well oiled machine right now. The Celtics have the leagues best defense holding opponents to under 100 points in 9 out of their 12 match ups this year. Kyrie is fitting right in to Brad Stevens system. The Celtics are looking like contenders for the eastern conference even without their second best player. Only time will tell how this will all shake out.