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Reliving Aron Baynes’ record-setting night

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The Phoenix Suns fill-in center rocked the NBA world with the greatest night of his life

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

No NBA starting center has made as many three-pointers in a game before.

No Phoenix Suns player has ever made more threes in a game before.

No Australian player has ever scored as many total points in an NBA game before.

He’s one of only two players in at least the last twenty years to record at least 6 threes and 10 rebounds in a half (Wilson Chandler was the other, of course).

His stat line of 37 points, including 9 three-pointers, plus 16 rebounds and 2 blocks has never been posted by any player in a single game in NBA history.

Putting Phoenix Suns backup center Aron Baynes historic night into context is important, if also a bit ridiculous to consider.

Baynes would be the first to tell you he is, in fact, not the greatest player on earth, nor the greatest Aussie, nor the greatest shooter even on that court.

Baynes career averages coming into the season were 5 points and 5 rebounds per game. He prides himself on defense, setting hard screens, and boxing out his man to let someone else grab the rebound.

He’s not about making plays for himself, but he is all about making the right play at the right time. And on Friday night, that included launching 14 threes.

“I wasn’t trying to celebrate,” Baynes said. “I wasn’t trying to think about it too much. Just move on to the next right play like Monty (Williams) says.”

But no one can take that moment away from him where he did, in fact, post one of the most uniquely great games the league has ever seen.

“It’s one of those things, it can be funny in the NBA like that,” Baynes said after. “Night to night can be completely different.”

Indeed. Baynes was available but didn’t even play in the last game, a loss to Toronto, and had only made 9 three-pointers TOTAL since the year turned to 2020.

The player nicknamed Splash Volcano last fall for coming out of the gates hot to start the season, making 50% of his threes on 4+ attempts per night, has always simply been about making the right play. And on Friday night, that right play involved launching 14 bombs, including a ridiculous James Harden stepback (check the highlight reel below!).

His counterpart, Hassan Whiteside, is one of the game’s best shot blockers but not a very good perimeter defender. So the Suns used Baynes to pull Whiteside out of the paint by forcing him to guard Baynes or leave Baynes wide open. In fact, the ploy ended up leaving both the paint and Baynes wide open.

“Most teams want to give up the tough two,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “But they drop back with Whiteside because he’s one of the best, probably historically, at the rim, so we just tried to take advantage of the space.”

The truth is that Baynes is a perfectly skilled big who at his best can negate the strengths of Whiteside, and this game showed it.

“They were really putting me in a corner,” Blazers center Hassan Whiteside said after the game. “They took me away from the rim a lot and put me in a corner so if I go help they kick it in the corner to Baynes. So they were just doing things where I couldn’t be in the paint or help that much.”

When the Suns did try to attack Whiteside, he made them regret it. Whiteside was credited with four blocks in the second and third quarters but it felt like 10, as he proved several times that his arms are longer than players can believe.

So the Suns went back outside, and tied their season high with 19 three-pointers made (3 off a franchise high of 22) out of 42 attempts (just two off an unbelievably low franchise high of 44). And when the shots missed, Baynes was there to clean it up with offensive rebounds.

”Credit them, they made plays when they needed to,” Blazers guard CJ McCollum said. “They hit threes, they got offensive rebounds. They did enough to beat us and they got off to a great start.”

The Suns shot out of the gates, building a 16-point lead in the first quarter, 23-point lead in the second, and 26-point lead in the third before cruising home to victory. The Suns led all 48 minutes of the game for only the second time all season.

Baynes wasn’t the only player who played well on Friday night.

Dario Saric scored a season-high 24 points, including a key 5-point stretch in the 4th quarter when the Blazers had cut the Suns lead to 10 with almost 5 minutes left.

Devin Booker tallied a season-high 12 assists — “I’d look like an ass**$& if I didn’t pass to the guys with nobody standing 6-10 feet away from him!” he joked — while Ricky Rubio had yet another double-double.

“I trust my teammates, and that’s the play that I’ll make every time,” he said. “If I see a really good shooter open, or even an average shooter open, I’ll make the right basketball play.”

Booker and Rubio now have 5 games this year where they both tallied 10+ assists (4 of those in the past five games).

In Suns history, the only other duos with at least 5 games of 10+ assists in a season are Kevin Johnson and Jeff Hornacek (9 in 1988-89) and Kevin Johnson and Jason Kidd (5 in 1996-97). This was also the duo’s 15th game this season where both had 8+ assists—no other duo in the NBA has more than 6 such games this season.

Enjoy these moments when you can, Suns fans.

“Every win in this league is tough to come by, so don’t take it for granted,” Booker said after getting that elusive 25th win in a season. “I want to get every win that I can. I don’t have time to take the night off. I love the process of coming in here working every day, and I love the process of losing and finding ways to win.”

Last weekend was rock bottom I guess, so that makes this week a bit of a bounce-back. It looks like this team, in spirit if not in terms of total wins, has climbed out of the muck.

“We know we’re just on the outside looking in right now,” Baynes said of being six games out of the playoff picture. “We have to stay focused as a group on what we need to do to keep getting better every night. We can’t really take our foot off the gas. We have to keep pushing, keep working. This is a great group of guys.”