The Celtics' big man depth had suddenly turned into a bit of trouble spot this week. Aron Baynes (broken hand) is out for at least another month and Rob Williams (strained groin) joined him on the inactive list starting Thursday night, putting Boston’s best two rim protectors in street clothes for the foreseeable future. Baynes won’t be back until late January at the earliest, while Williams’ status beyond this road trip remains unclear.
With Al Horford still on a minutes limit (25 per game) and looking a little bit sluggish from a mobility standpoint, a lot of pressure suddenly fell on reserve center Daniel Theis in recent games. The German big man has been a surprise contributor over the past few seasons but he’s had his problems on the defensive end this year. The 28-year-old is fouling more than anyone on the team and he isn’t rebounding as well as he did last year. These problems were prevalent on Thursday night in Houston and he did not look much better in the first half against Memphis as he was bullied by Marc Gasol (who has a huge size edge) in the post and just wasn’t moving great. Joel Embiid had his way with Theis as well on Christmas Day.
Those struggles left Brad Stevens with limited options while trying to figure out how best to fill the 12 minutes at center that Horford would need to rest in the second half with the Celtics facing a 19-point deficit and a combination of Gasol and Joakim Noah at center.
Despite an ordinary first half appearance, Stevens made Guerschon Yabusele the first man off the bench in the third quarter in hopes of finding a spark for the C’s defense. The second-year Frenchman probably deserved to play more over Theis in Thursday’s loss to the Rockets after a solid first half stint but Stevens went back to Theis in the fourth quarter in a move that burned him. On Saturday night, he decided to make a change that could lead to an important development for this team over the next month.