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In win over 76ers, Kelly Olynyk continues to lead the second unit

02.15.17 at 10:20 pm ET
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Feb 15, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard TJ McConnell (1) shots against Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk (41) in the second quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

76ers guard TJ McConnell (1) shots against Celtics center Kelly Olynyk (41) in the second quarter at TD Garden. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Kelly Olynyk is quietly becoming one of the Celtics’ most reliable players off the bench. 

For the fifth straight game, Olynyk led the reserves in scoring. He finished with 16 points on 6-of-8 shots and 7 rebounds in the Celtics’ 116-108 win over the 76ers.  

His contributions on both ends of the floor has made him a leader for the second unit — one that’s playing without Marcus Smart — and has helped fend off opposition from grabbing big leads while the starters are resting.

Isaiah Thomas finished with a game-high 33 points. It was the 40th consecutive game that Thomas scored at least 20 points, matching the mark of John Havlicek in the 1971-72 season. Thomas also has a chance to break Larry Bird’s franchise record of 29.9 points per game for a season, set in 1987-88. After 56 games, Thomas is averaging 29.8 points, second only to Russell Westbrook’s 30.8 average. 

“When you know you’re getting 20-plus points from a guy on a given night, it’s pretty a special trait,” coach Brad Stevens said. “It’s pretty special to know that. He’s been amazing with his consistency regardless of how he feels, regardless of little nicks and bruises and everything else. He just kind of keeps going. And he’s a tough guy, he’s a tough-minded guy, and his consistency’s been impressive. And I think consistency and being able to do it every night is what separates – right? – the guys that, obviously [like] Havlicek, but the great ones.”

Smart added 21 points and Crowder chipped in 18 but it was Olynyk’s effort that not only led the bench but prevented the C’s from falling behind in the first half. He scored 10 of his 16 points in the second quarter as the Celtics and 76ers headed into halftime tied at 61.

Olynyk continued to play well in the second half by pulling down rebounds and defending the paint. He helped the Celtics keep up their offensive momentum before Thomas and the starting unit returned to close out the win in the fourth quarter. 

For a full box score and statistical round-up of Wednesday’s win over the Sixers, click here

After a slow start, including December when he averaged a woeful 6.5 points in 18.2 minutes, Olynyk has turned things around this month by making an effort on the defensive end, pulling down rebounds and finding ways to score inside the arc.

Olynyk is averaging 12.7 points in his last eight games, while shooting 56.4 percent from the floor. The biggest reason for the spike in his scoring statistics has to do with his effort in seeking high percentage shots instead of settling for 3-pointers. 

He’s only averaging three 3-point attempts a game while averaging six shots from in or around the paint. And on Wednesday night he finished a perfect 2-for-2 from deep.

Olynyk has not only been making cuts to the baskets and converting layups, he’s also averaging 7 rebounds. He’s made an effort in chasing down boards and boxing out big men — a facet of his game that has always been the biggest knock about the 7-footer, who averages a 4.7 boards for his career. 

Celtics have now won 11 of their last 12 games and will look to make it five straight when they take on the Bulls tomorrow night at Chicago in their final game before the All-Star break. 

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