11/18 Game Preview: Celtics at Suns
The Phoenix Suns' draft day trade with Boston to acquire center Aron Baynes from Boston did not turn heads. Until recently.
The Suns would not be where they are -- 7-4, their best start since 2009-10 -- without Baynes, who has fit in so seamlessly during Deandre Ayton's 25-game suspension for violating the league's anti-drug policy that a legitimate question surrounds how the rotation will shake out when Ayton returns.
Boston (10-2) has been even better. They had a 10-game winning streak broken in a 100-99 loss at Sacramento on Sunday before playing the second game of a back-to-back Monday in Phoenix, the third stop on their five-game road trip.
"The streak put more emphasis on us to do things better," said Boston guard Marcus Smart, whose shot in the final seconds rolled off the rim against the Kings.
"Although we don't want to lose, the loss is a good loss. Brings us back down to earth."
Suns coach Monty Williams remembered when general manager James Jones mentioned the possibility of landing Baynes during draft-room conversations.
"To have a guy like that, on your team, in your locker room, it was a no-brainer for me," Williams said.
"We just knew it was going to help Deandre (Ayton) and our culture. We're really trying to develop a culture that guys can gravitate towards and want to be in. We needed him to be a big part of that and be a positive impact on it."
Baynes -- acquired with a 2019 draft choice that became Ty Jerome for a top-seven protected 2020 first-round pick -- is averaging a career high 15.0 points, tripling his average over his first seven seasons.
He has made 22 of 47 3-point attempts, most on open looks after rotating to the top of the key in pick-and-roll action, already a career season-high. He had 25 career threes entering the year.
"I credit the guys I am playing with," Baynes said. "They are creating so much space and time for me. It is fun playing with these guys."
Boston is averaging about 114 points per game while doing its best work on the defensive end, limiting opponents to 106 points and 42.7 percent shooting. They are third in the league with a plus-8.0 in point differential. The Suns are fifth (7.1).
"This is a relentless group," Jayson Tatum said after a trip-opening victory at Golden State. "When things get tough, we never put our heads down."
The Suns will play the final game of a six-game homestand, a period that has helped Williams further implement his style and culture. The Suns have been home for 16 straight days, since a 114-105 victory in Memphis on Nov. 2. The play Sacramento on the road Tuesday.
"We are still building a program," Williams said. "I'm so thankful we got some wins, but our process is still in the infant stages. I have to keep my eyes on that, that we are still building.
"We don't have a sustained culture yet. We don't have a sustained program yet. So when you are home for segments like this, it is a chance to us to establish it.
The Suns are 3-2 during the homestand, with victories over Philadelphia, Brooklyn and Atlanta and losses to Miami and the Lakers.