Celtics praise Baynes’ selflessness
ARON Baynes will never attract big headlines, but his valuable role in a charging Boston Celtics side can't be underestimated.
The veteran forward's impact was on show in Monday's comprehensive 108-83 win over LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Baynes finished with four points, eight rebounds and two assists, but his energy on the defensive end forced a host of crucial turnovers and bad shots.
Importantly, the Boomers star teamed with Al Horford and Marcus Morris to restrict James to only 15 points and a play-off-high seven turnovers.
But it was Baynes' team-first mentality that had Celtics coach Brad Stevens gushing with praise post-game.
After starting in every game against the Philadelphia 76ers last series, the proud Australian shifted to the bench to cater for Boston's small-ball approach.
Most starters wouldn't be happy being relegated, but Baynes made no fuss.
Stevens says Baynes' selflessness is inspiring the team's younger players to buy into their roles.
"Being able to take him in and out of the line-up, he's set a great example for everybody else," Stevens said.
"I've said this not enough times: You can't have better leaders than Al (Horford) and Baynes.
"They're both our two oldest players, they are totally selfless, they are totally in it for the team, they wrap their arms around young guys and young guys feel ownership with them. It's as good as it gets.
"Baynes has been our anchor down there all year."
Stevens couldn't be happier with the Celtics' blowout win in Game 1, but he isn't getting carried away.
He knows the James-led Cavaliers will hit back hard in Game 2 on Wednesday from 10.30am (AEST).
"I thought our guys played with a good aggression, but we are going to have to play better on Tuesday," Stevens said frankly.
In the Western Conference Finals, champions Golden State face a stern test to defend their crown against a strong Houston Rockets side led by superstars James Harden and Chris Paul.
The Rockets host the Warriors in Game 1 on Tuesday from 11.00am (AEST).