The Celtics have won pretty this season, thanks to Kyrie Irving’s exhilarating wizardry. On Wednesday night against the Lakers, they made it 10 straight by winning ugly.
With a concussion sidelining Al Horford, the Celtics began the night shorthanded. Before it would end, they’d lose rookie Jayson Tatum to a sore ankle and watch trainers work on Irving’s knee, though he did return to make a couple of key buckets down the stretch of a 107-96 victory.
The Celtics exhibited some serious heart in this one, opening a 20-point lead in the first half before attrition started taking its toll. With eight players seeing at least 22 minutes of action and Irving experiencing a rare off shooting night, the Celtics dug deep into their bench to find a winning formula that basically boiled down to survival.
“We had a bunch of guys step up and do different things,” head coach Brad Stevens told reporters. “We were timely. We weren’t good enough to say we played well. We can play better than that.”
Big man Aron Baynes, starting in place of Horford, recorded his best game in a Celtics uniform, with 21 points and eight rebounds. Irving scored 19, but missed all seven of his 3-pointers. Forward Marcus Morris chipped in 18, including 3-of-6 3-pointers, while guard Terry Rozier added 14.
The Celtics received contributes from everyone. Jaylen Brown grabbed 11 rebounds. Daniel Theis blocked three shots. Marcus Smart played suffocating defense on highly touted rookie Lonzo Ball, helping limit him to nine points on 4-of-15 shooting and delivering a highlight film rejection on an attempted finger roll.
The Celtics needed to hustle and scrap without Horford and Tatum, who only played nine minutes. This was the classic example of a good team playing a bad game and still finding a way to win.
Baynes was the revelation. Mr. All of Australia scored his 21 points in 22 minutes, converting either baskets or free throws off of feeds from Irving.
The journeyman center, who has already made stops in San Antonio and Detroit, has found himself a home in Boston by clearing space on the boards, providing a physical presence defensively, and crashing the offensive glass.
“Aron was great,” Stevens said. “They went small a lot, with [Julius] Randle and then they had a lineup there at the very end that was even smaller without all the bigs. And he did a good job rolling all night, and sealing, and finishing in and around the paint. Had a couple of put-backs, and did a good job.”
Now 10-2, the Celtics own the NBA’s best record. Morris, for one, thinks this is only the beginning.
“Sky is the limit,” he said. “Keep working hard. We’ve got a lot of younger guys that are stepping up to the challenge. We want Al back as soon as possible and hopefully Jason is doing good. It’s early in the season, it’s a long, long year and hopefully we are going to withstand and keep on winning.”
Full article @ Celtics 107, Lakers 96: Undermanned Celtics need all of Australia to beat Lakers
Source: GreenStreet Blog