BOSTON – The “Next man up” approach has been one that has been working most of this season for the Boston Celtics.
So it really wasn’t all that surprising that the Celtics would find a path to success even with their defensive anchor, Al Horford out with a left knee injury.
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Without Horford, Boston still managed to deliver a defensive gem of a game in defeating Brooklyn 87-85.
It was fitting that in the game’s closing moments, it was a series of defensive plays at the rim that ultimately secured what became Boston’s sixth straight win which is the longest active winning streak.
Aron Baynes got the start for Horford and delivered a solid performance with 10 points and six rebounds.
And Daniel Theis was as active as ever around the glass, in addition to being a good option to turn to when defenses pay too much attention to Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum and Boston’s other more accomplished scorers.
He came off the Celtics bench to score eight points on 4-for-6 shooting in addition to grabbing a team-high 10 rebounds.
But his contributions to the win were most significant on defense, the kind of contributions Boston has grown accustomed to getting on a night-in, night-out basis from Horford who has been among the NBA’s top defensive big men this season.
And Baynes, who came to Boston from Detroit where he had established himself as an above-average defender playing limited minutes, has bee among the league’s overall leaders in defensive rating this season.
As good as they have been this season, both understand how they must step up their play when a key player like Horford is out.
“Marcus (Morris) is a good player for us, but he’s missed a lot of games this year so we know we have to play better when one of our guys is out,” Theis told NBC Sports Boston in an interview prior to Saturday’s game against the Nets. “We’ve been playing with each other, for each other all season. That’s why we’re a good team.”