“Chemistry is something that you don’t just throw in the frying pan and mix it up with another something, then throw it on top of something, then fry it up and put it in a tortilla and put in a microwave, heat it up and give it to you and expect it to taste good. You know?.” – Kevin Garnett
The wisdom of great philosophers is timeless.
The Boston Celtics are in their fifth month of trying to fry up some chemistry. A lineup change in November fixed things for a while, but injuries robbed Brad Stevens of key ingredients necessary for the team’s stability. When DeAndre Ayton’s elbow met Aron Baynes’ left hand on December 19, it not only broke a bone, it broke Boston’s bench.
Baynes is Boston’s leader in net rating at +12.8. That means Boston is 12.8 points per 100 possessions better when Baynes is on the floor than when he sits. Against the Memphis Grizzlies, we saw again why he makes such a big impact.
The Boston Celtics are a middle-of-the-pack offensive rebounding team. Their 10.2 per game is 16th in the NBA, but that average dropped to 8.9 in the stretch without Baynes. Memphis head coach JB Bickerstaff knew what he was in for with Baynes before the game, saying “he’s physical, he offensive rebounds, so now it puts more pressure on your defense to finish possessions.” Unfortunately for his Grizzlies, there were seven times they couldn’t finish defensive possessions.
Baynes is very good at positioning himself underneath the rim. It’s one thing to be a big, burly Aussie, but it’s another to be in proper position to hold someone off and go for the board. Memphis had defended for 18 seconds and forced a Gordon Hayward miss. Securing that rebound could have helped stopped Boston’s run a just five. Instead, Baynes tipped it in and Boston closed the quarter on a 19-2 run.
“I thought he was really good,” Brad Stevens said after the game. “I thought again the bench came in that first quarter and did a great job of getting us a lead.”
Here’s another example of Baynes’ ability to get great position. Watch him run from one basket to another.
This is just amazing work from Baynes. Four Grizzlies were ahead of him and Joakim Noah was even with him. He got past everyone, got into position to get the offensive rebound, and got fouled. He then stepped to the line and made both free throws.
“Baynes rebounds, plays hard, he’s an energy guy and right now that’s what our team needs,” said Jaylen Brown after the game. “The more Baynes is out there, I think the better we are.”
They’re better defensively with him too. Here he is starting a fast break with a blocked shot
The block, the break, and the dunk were all great, but also watch Baynes, who was inches away from the baseline after the block, motor all the way up the floor just in case Brown misses or gets blocked.
Baynes is much like Marcus Smart in that his energy, effort, and intelligence are what make him so valuable. Neither needs to score many points or put up gaudy statistics to make an impact on the game.
“He cleans up a lot of our mistakes on (the defensive) end,” Kyrie Irving said. “We’re making guys miss on the perimeter and he cleans up. Whether he gets the board or not, he’s always got a body on somebody and we always have a great chance to get the possession.”
The feared impact of moving Smart into the starting lineup was that it would sap some of the bench’s energy. Baynes alleviates that fear and it allows the Boston Celtics to have a maniac on the floor at all times. Every team needs a “do anything to win at any cost” kind of guy on the floor. Boston has two in Smart and Baynes, and having their bruising big back on the floor changes the entire dynamic of games. On nights where effort seems lacking, an Aussie injection could be the cure to what ails Boston.
“It feels good to have Baynes back and have a healthy roster,” Smart said Friday night. “It’s around that time where guys work is finally paying off. Everyone has been putting in the work and I think it shows.”