When the Los Angeles Lakers played the Boston Celtics last November, Aron Baynes scored a game-high 21 points and added three assists and eight rebounds, five of which were on the offensive glass, in 23 minutes. The 21 points also matched a career high for Baynes.
He’s averaging 5.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game this season, his sixth in the NBA but first with the Celtics. Baynes’ presence offset the absence of Al Horford, who was in concussion protocol and sat out, and gave the Lakers fits on the interior all night.
While Baynes is not a standout on a roster that features Jaylen Brown, Horford, Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum, the big man certainly has the Lakers on alert.
“We game plan that Aron Baynes is an enforcer for them and he physically beat us up last game, head coach Luke Walton said at Tuesday’s shootaround.
“So we have to be ready to match that physicality. Coming off a three-game losing streak, I would imagine they’re a little chippy coming into town.”
Boston ripped off seven consecutive wins prior to their current slide. Even with the losing streak, they are 31-13 on the season and hold a two-game lead over the Toronto Raptors for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
While Walton mentioned the nature with which Brad Stevens’ team plays with, he also put the onus on the Lakers to be the aggressor. “We have to be ready for that physicality. And not only be ready for it, we want to be the ones who set the tone with it,” Walton said.
L.A. enters Tuesday’s matchup on a modest two-game winning streak that’s been sparked by stellar play from Jordan Clarkson and a renewed focus on the defensive end of the court.
That mindset helped the Lakers overcome a 2-for-14 effort at the free throw line, which represented the worst percentage in NBA history, in a win against the Pacers. And defense is what led to pulling away from the New York Knicks in what was shaping to be a shootout.
And though Walton didn’t offer specifics on Tuesday, it can be surmised Julius Randle will be expected to carry the brunt of the responsibility in containing Baynes and others. Walton previously highlighted Randle as the player who’s tasked with representing the Lakers on the interior.
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