BOSTON — As the Boston Celtics got their nightly dumptrucking from Giannis Antetokounmpo, it was fair to wonder why Brad Stevens elected to leave one of his better defenders on the bench.
Celtics center Aron Baynes played a mere 2:07 in the Celtics’ 123-116 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks at TD Garden in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal. Baynes had played 10 minutes in Game 2 and nine in Game 1.
Of course, there’s only so much that can be done to slow down the Bucks star, so there’s a chance Baynes’ impact would have been minimal. However, he’s arguably the Celtic that most closely can match Antetokounmpo physically, so the decision to leave Baynes on the bench while the Greek Freak got to the free throw line 22 times seemed perplexing — especially with Semi Ojeleye barely having any impact.
After the loss, Stevens explained why he kept Baynes sidelined, and it certainly sounds like it might not be something he’ll continue doing.
“I think it’s tough,” Stevens said. “If he’s not going to guard Giannis then he’s going to guard a 3-point shooter, and that’s difficult. But we may have to go back with that just because he provides a little more protection in the paint. And he’ll take a charge off the ball, which I think is important.”
Indeed, matching Baynes up with a player like Khris Middleton and Nikola Mirotic wouldn’t make a ton of sense. But Antetokounmpo had a game-high 32 points Friday, which also it his highest total of the series so far. So tough as it may be, it might make at least some sense to take chances with the Bucks’ shooters if it could help slow down Antetokounmpo.