BOSTON — Aron Baynes’ importance to the Boston Celtics cannot be understated.
Baynes has been limited to just 46 games this season due to various ailments, but the latest return from injury sparked a new role for the veteran big man. Baynes started his third straight game for the Celtics on Friday night, and his performance against the Indiana Pacers highlighted how critical he’ll be to Boston’s postseason run.
The seventh-year pro logged 13 points and a season-high 13 rebounds in the Celtics’ 114-112 win over the Pacers at TD Garden. Baynes helped set the tone from the get-go, scoring seven points and pulling down three rebounds in the first quarter. He made the most of his season-high 32 minutes, which included keeping Indiana big man Myles Turner in check for the bulk of the contest.
Considering how his season has transpired, Baynes’ showing against the Pacers was encouraging above all else. But in the eyes of head coach Brad Stevens, it was necessary.
“He had to. You know, we needed him to,” Stevens said. “And again, we just haven’t had him and Al (Horford) healthy for very much of the year, so it’s been hard to play them together. Plus, with all our depth on the wing it’s hard to find minutes for everybody when those guys are playing together. But it’s nice to have them back. It’s nice to have them available, and we need to have that as an option moving forward.”
As Stevens touched on, the Celtics’ depth primarily is made up of wing players, which only heightens the significance of Baynes’ availability. The 32-year-old provides an interior presence that will be needed throughout the playoffs, as Boston eventually could be tasked with trying to subdue some the league’s premier rim runners such as Joel Embiid and MVP frontrunner Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Stuffing the stat sheet isn’t exactly a common occurrence for Baynes, but he finds ways to make an impact every night he takes the floor.
Here are some other notes from Friday’s Celtics-Pacers game:
— Kyrie Irving logged a game-high 30 points, including the game-winning basket with 0.5 seconds to go. The star point guard has scored 30 points or more in seven of his last nine games.
— Horford was his usual self, scoring 19 points and seven rebounds. The star big man has been on a tear of late.
— Jaylen Brown provided a boost off the bench with 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting over 27 minutes.
— The Celtics’ offense was efficient to the tune of a 51 percent shooting clip, marking the second straight game Boston has shot at least 50 percent from the floor.
— The Celtics and Pacers now are deadlocked with identical 45-31 records. Boston currently owns the tiebreaker over Indiana by virtue of a 2-1 advantage in the teams’ regular-season series. The two teams will square off at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on April 5.