Baynes' Physicality Proves Too Much for Howard, Hornets to Handle
BOSTON - The Boston Celtics logged a season-high 134 points Wednesday night, shot a season-best 62.1 percent from the field and routed the red-hot Charlotte Hornets by 28 points at TD Garden. All while the Celtics were lighting up the scoreboard, Aron Baynes was quietly enjoying one of his most brilliant, under-the-radar performances of the season.
As Boston's offensive stars were busy piling up the points, Baynes was busy bodying up against Dwight Howard - one of the most challenging one-on-one tasks a big man can face in the NBA. And his effort against the eight-time All-NBA center was nothing short of magnificent during the 134-106 route.
Howard entered the night as the league's fourth-leading rebounder at 12.6 boards per game, but that average was bumped down thanks to Baynes' efforts in the low post. Boston's starting center helped limit the six-time rebounding champion to three total boards - including just one on the defensive end - during 26 minutes of play. The last and only other time Howard was held to three or fewer rebounds while playing at least 25 minutes occurred during the 2004-05 season when he was an 18-year-old rookie.
That statistic is enough to tell you that there aren't many opponents who experience success in boxing out Howard, but Baynes' 10-3 rebounding advantage Wednesday night spoke for itself. With that being said an effort of that nature is often overlooked, especially during such an offensively-driven effort.
"It can go unnoticed what [Baynes] does in the paint," said Jaylen Brown, who tallied 15 points, five rebounds, four assists and a game-best plus-28 rating. "He battles and he's really on his P's and Q's. He helps our team out a lot rebounding, even making those little jumpers on offense, and just banging down there. I don't take it for granted because when I get switched onto a 5 and I've gotta bang and bump down there, you can really see how it is."
Baynes (12 points, 10 rebounds, three assists) was challenged by Howard during the early goings of Wednesday's contest, as Charlotte's 6-foot-11 center bumped and battled his way to 15 points during the first half. However, constantly banging into Baynes' brick wall of a body took a toll on Howard. As a result, he ended up being limited to six points and zero rebounds during the second half.
"You saw the way that Dwight wants to go at the basket, like he did in the first half, how hard it is to keep him from getting where he wants to go," said coach Brad Stevens, whose Celtics held a 47-33 advantage on the boards. "But every time you hit Baynes it wears on you, because he's a big, strong guy, and he does a great job for us."
Newcomer Greg Monroe knows all too well what it's like to go up against Baynes' physical presence. Prior to joining the Celtics in early February, Monroe had accumulated 16 career matchups against Baynes, and those matchups left a mark.
"Let's just say I'm happy to have him on my team right now," Monroe said while letting out a hearty chuckle. "He's a very tough player and a great defender in the low post. He's physical, he knows how to move his feet and use his hands, so it's definitely a tough night any night you have to go against him."
Baynes' toughness was greatly needed Wednesday night, not only because he was going up against one of the most respected centers in the league, but also because his back-up, Daniel Theis, was sidelined with a hamstring injury.
While Baynes' physicality did not show up in the box score outside of his rebound total, it did show up in the eyes of his teammates. His physicality in the low post greatly hindered Charlotte's sizzling offense, and it also restricted the Hornets' ability to clog the lane on the defensive end. At the end of the day, Baynes was able to limit one of the greatest rebounders of all time, while doing all the dirty work needed to help Boston produce its highest-scoring affair of the season.