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Baynes impresses for Pistons in stopgap role

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Minneapolis — Pistons backup center Aron Baynes was surprised to see a group of reporters gathered around his locker after the game.

He hasn’t had a lot of attention this season — especially playing behind Andre Drummond — but his play on Friday night prompted a few questions.

Baynes had six points and a season-high 11 rebounds in the Pistons’ 96-86 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. He was picking up the slack for Drummond, who was in foul trouble.

Baynes’ 11 rebounds were one off his career high, which he’s done twice, but he took the increased production in stride.

“It’s all good. I was just running up and down and enjoying it out there,” said Baynes, who played a season-high 18 minutes. “It’s whatever I need to do for the team. Andre’s been playing great so I’ve been cheering him on.

“Whenever my number’s called, I want to go out there and help the team as best I can.”

Against the Timberwolves, that meant scratching and clawing his way to loose balls for rebounds and playing some tight defense, at least until Drummond could get back into the game.

Baynes started the second quarter and got a basket about five minutes in. Drummond returned and picked up his second foul with 5:29 left in the second quarter, then got his third 26 seconds later.

Baynes, who is coming off an ankle injury in the offseason, battled against Timberwolves big men Gorgui Dieng and rookie Karl-Anthony Towns and held his own, chipping in four points and seven rebounds in the second quarter alone. It was the shot in the arm the Pistons needed to help overcome the deficit and take the lead in the third quarter.

“We got some good performances from other people. Aron was tremendous, with 11 rebounds in less than 19 minutes,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “He was great (overall) and he was great defensively. He spearheaded our defense getting going.”

It was a combined bench effort, with Stanley Johnson adding 15 points and Spencer Dinwiddie six points, as well as guiding the second-team offense.

The bench is starting to come together well, accounting for 27 points Friday and showing some signs that it might not be all doom and gloom in waiting for Jodie Meeks (toe fracture) and Brandon Jennings (Achilles rehab) to return.

“They held us down,” Reggie Jackson said. “Andre and myself got in foul trouble and we didn’t start out the way we wanted to.

“Our bench came in and lifted us; they got stops and found a way to put a way to put the ball in the basket.”