Baynes bails out Pistons in time of need

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Boston — Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy didn’t want to wait for the inevitable to come, so he did something about it preemptively.

In a tight game, Van Gundy knew — almost to a certainty — that Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens would resort to the strategy of intentionally fouling Pistons center Andre Drummond. Stevens had done it several times in the previous two meetings and with less than seven minutes left and with the Celtics ahead by a point on Wednesday night at Boston, it was coming again.

Drummond had hurt his knee after being intentionally tackled by Amir Johnson on a previous play and went to the bench.

Van Gundy kept him there.

Reserve center Aron Baynes played the final 6:13 of the game and was superb in relief, playing with five fouls and thwarting the Celtics’ comeback attempt in a 99-94 comeback win.

Detroit Pistons' Aron Baynes (12) blocks a shot by Boston Celtics' Isaiah Thomas (4) during the fourth quarter Wednesday.

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“I wasn’t going to mess around. We weren’t even in the penalty and they were going to foul (Drummond) before the ball came inbounds,” Van Gundy said. “I put Aron in and rather than try to go back and forth, I made up my mind that I’m going to finish it with Aron and let our guys play and not have to play through free throws and get in the rhythm of the game.”

Van Gundy hasn’t sat Drummond in many instances this season, but the strategy worked this time, as Baynes finished with six points, six rebounds and four assists. His stout defense in the final minutes was critical, as the Celtics, who had dominated in the paint in the first three quarters, didn’t get points from anyone other than point guard Isaiah Thomas, who scored their final 15 points.

Baynes also hit a pair of free throws after drawing a loose-ball foul to extend the lead to four with 29.7 seconds left.

In the offseason, Van Gundy coveted Baynes to be a go-to guy in similar situations — and he came through when the Pistons needed him.

“We knew when we signed him that he was a very good player. We had great confidence in him and we knew we needed a guy who could play in these situations because of Andre’s free-throw-shooting problem,” Van Gundy said. “Coming into tonight, (he averaged) 13 minutes.

“Even though it’s not a huge minute thing, the value is higher because there are going to be a lot of games where those minutes are played like tonight down the stretch in a close game and he’s a guy you can count on.”

For the most part, Baynes has been in obscurity, playing behind Drummond, but those opportunities may be more plentiful if he continues as he did against the Celtics.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

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