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BOSTON – Aron Baynes made an outstanding impression on the Boston Celtics and its fanbase during his first season with the organization, providing grittiness, veteran leadership, and a selfless, team-first attitude each day he showed up to work.
For those contributions, the Australian big man was rewarded by the team Friday with a brand-new contract.
In celebration of the signing, we’re taking a look back at some of Baynes’ best performances from his inaugural season in green and white. Here are his top five.
5. An Offensive Display vs. L.A.
The Celtics typically relied on Baynes to produce in a defensive capacity this season, but when the time called for it, he could also deliver on the offensive end. A prime example of that occurred Nov. 8 when a shorthanded version of the C’s took on the Los Angeles Lakers at TD Garden.
Al Horford had been ruled out ahead of the game due to a concussion and Jayson Tatum was lost nine minutes into action with an ankle injury, so the Celtics needed an extra source of offensive energy to make up for those absences.
Baynes took on the responsibility by producing a career-high-tying 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting to help vault Boston past the Lakers, 107-96.
Baynes’ game-high point total was accompanied by eight rebounds and three assists over the course of 23 minutes of play.
The early-season outpour was an offensive coming out party for Baynes, who proved to Celtics Nation that he could be far more than just a defensive force if the opportunity called for it.
4. A Homecoming to Remember
There’s always added joy in performing well against one’s former team, especially when it involves outplaying an old teammate and friend.
Baynes had the pleasure of accomplishing both feats during his first trip back to Detroit on Dec. 10, when he contained All-Star center Andre Drummond to a dismal offensive performance, while helping to lead Boston’s defense to one of its greatest efforts of the season.
Drummond had a history of tearing up Boston’s defense, boasting an average of 17.8 points per game against the C’s in 19 career games – his highest scoring mark against any opponent. The first matchup of the season on Nov. 27 didn’t buck the trend, as he tallied 26 points to go along with 22 rebounds, six assists and four steals. That game, however, only featured 13 minutes of Baynes off the bench.
This time around, the Celtics opted to start Baynes and gave him more than twice as many minutes to work with.
The result? Just six points for Drummond on a season-low 1-of-5 effort from the field and a 91-81 win for the C’s.
Baynes scored six points of his own on 3-of-6 shooting and also pulled down a then-season-high 13 rebounds. His defense was suffocating, as he honed in on Drummond to shut off the lob play that was so effective during the previous meeting.
The friendly history between two former teammates, as well as the homecoming environment, made the result all the more sweeter for Baynes.
3. Holding Down Howard
Baynes was responsible for doing most of the dirty work in the paint for the Celtics this season, and that often involved protecting the rim and banging bodies against elite post players.
On Feb. 28, Baynes was assigned to cover the greatest rebounder of this generation in Dwight Howard, and per usual the Celtics big man delivered.
Baynes helped to limit the six-time rebounding champion to three total boards, including just one on the defensive end, en route to a 134-106 beatdown of the Charlotte Hornets. It marked just the second time in Howard’s career that he was held to three or fewer rebounds while playing at least 25 minutes.
Baynes, meanwhile, corralled a game-high 10 rebounds and contributed to the offensive explosion with 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting during 22 minutes of play.
2. A Long-Range Awakening
Baynes spent hours and hours behind closed doors this season working to add a 3-point shot to his game. Finally, during Game 76 of the regular season, his diligence paid off.
Boston’s starting center opened up the March 31 matchup against the Toronto Raptors by knocking down five jump shots – each at least 14 feet from the basket – during the first quarter alone. Two of those makes came from long distance, where he had previously shot just 1-of-19 over the course of his career.
The 2-for-2 effort from beyond the arc helped kick-start Baynes’ sharpshooting confidence at the most important time of the season. He took his new-found skill into the Playoffs where he shot 11-of-23 from deep for a team-leading clip of 47.8 percent.
Now, Baynes is considered to be a legitimate 3-point threat, all thanks to the confidence he discovered beyond the arc toward the tail-end of the season.
1. A Record-Setting Finale
The Celtics entered their regular season finale against Brooklyn having already locked up the second seed in the Playoffs. But that didn’t make it a meaningless game – at least not to Baynes.
With five of his core teammates resting up that night, Baynes took it upon himself to lead the young group of Celtics that took the court, and he stepped up to deliver the best performance of his career.
Baynes erupted for a career-high 26 points on 12-of-23 shooting, all while corralling a season-high 14 rebounds to help guide Boston to a 110-97 win. He did all of that during just 20 minutes of play, becoming the first NBA player in more than 50 years to log at least 25 points and 14 rebounds while playing 20 minutes or fewer. He also became the first Celtics center to tally at least 25 points and 14 boards in a game since Kevin Garnett on Dec. 3, 2008.
Baynes’ gritty, under-the-radar style of play rarely landed him in the spotlight during the previous 81 games, but it was the perfect way for the hard-working big man to cap off his season.
“He’s done whatever we’ve needed to win, every single game this year,” C’s coach Brad Stevens said after the game. “He’s just a pro’s pro. He shows up every night. He shows up to play. He’s appreciative of the opportunity to play in the NBA, and to do this for a living, and he’s had a great impact on our team.”