|Kelly Olynyk silences critics with big night in win over Hawks||01.13.17 at 10:59 pm ET|
Take that, Kelly Olynyk haters.
The Celtics forward — a lightning rod for criticism in Boston this season — stole some of the spotlight in Al Horford’s return to Atlanta on Friday night, helping the Celtics to a 103-101 win over the Hawks (click here for the game recap).
Olynyk, who often seems to play smaller than his 7-foot stature, was at his best Friday, scoring a season-high 26 points in 31 minutes. He hit 9-of-11 shots, including 4-of-5 3-pointers. He hit all four of his free throws. He grabbed eight rebounds — double his season average — and dished out three assists.
His contributions likely won’t make the highlight reel — especially after Isaiah Thomas once again took over down the stretch, culminating with a game-winning pull-up jumper with 2.4 seconds remaining — but there’s no doubting Olynyk’s value.
“Kelly had a great game,” Horford told CSNNE’s Abby Chin after the C’s survived a late Hawks surge. “He was very solid.”
This is why coach Brad Stevens continues to give minutes to the 25-year-old, who at times looks overmatched but other times does many of the little things that go overlooked. Point in case: On the final play of Friday’s win, Olynyk raced over to the corner and helped force a difficult jumper from Paul Millsap that was off the mark as time expired.
“For the most part Kelly was an effective offensive player throughout the entire night, and a really helpful defender,” Stevens said in his postgame press conference.
|Celtics still can’t catch Cavaliers||12.29.16 at 11:20 pm ET|
At Thursday’s team shootaround, hours before the Celtics took on the defending NBA champion Cavaliers, Brad Stevens was asked about the C’s using the game as a measuring stick, and he downplayed the significance.
“We’ve played these guys,” Stevens said (via MassLive.com). “We know how good they are. They’re the class of the East. Regardless of how we play tonight and regardless of result, these guys are still the champions last year and they are still well ahead of all of us. We’re chasing them. We’ve got to play better over the course of a long, long stretch to start talking about measuring anything against this level, in my opinion.”
Good choice of words.
As has been the case for most of the season, the Celtics were unable to deliver when faced with a chance to make a statement against one of the league’s elite, rallying in the fourth quarter to cut a 20-point deficit to one but ultimately dropping a 124-118 decision in Cleveland.
They’ll take away some positives — the C’s took control in the fourth quarter and had a chance to take the lead with eight seconds remaining but Jae Crowder’s 3-pointer clanged off the back of the rim, and Al Horford’s block of a LeBron James layup attempt in the first half undoubtedly will become a regular clip on the TD Garden video board the rest of the season — but they continue to show that they are not yet ready to take that next step.
|Fast Break: Isaiah Thomas leads balanced Celtics attack in win over Pacers||12.22.16 at 9:33 pm ET|
The Pacers wore their “Hoosiers” Hickory High throwback uniforms for Thursday’s game, but there was no Hollywood ending for the home team as Isaiah Thomas continued his fantastic play in leading the Celtics to a 109-102 win.
The Celtics dug out of an early nine-point hole with a 29-9 second quarter, built a 17-point lead in the third quarter, then held on behind Thomas’ clutch shooting to post their season-best fourth straight win — completing a 3-0 road trip in the process.
Thomas scored 14 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter. He also dished out nine assists, helping Boston to have a balanced attack. The C’s had six players in double figures, including Avery Bradley (15 points), Jae Crowder (15), Marcus Smart (12), Amir Johnson (11) and Kelly Olynyk (11). Al Horford had eight points and 11 rebounds.
Thomas was coming off a career-high 44 points in Tuesday’s win over the Grizzlies.
“I’m just taking what the defense gives me,” Thomas told CSNNE’s Kyle Draper right after the game. “I’m in attack mode. I’m doing what my team needs me to do. Coach [Brad Stevens] and my teammates put me in position to be me. And that’s all it is.”
Jeff Teague led the Pacers with 31 points — shooting 9-of-15 from the field and 11-of-11 from the line — and eight assists. C.J. Miles and Paul George each scored 19, although George was held to six points in the second half. Thaddeus Young contributed 15 points and 11 rebounds.
|Fast Break: Isaiah Thomas scores career-high 44 as Celtics rally past Grizzlies in OT||12.20.16 at 11:08 pm ET|
The Celtics’ first truly impressive win of the season was a long time coming, but they made it a memorable one.
The C’s battled back from a 17-point deficit against a strong (and hot) Grizzlies team in Memphis and pulled out a 112-109 win in overtime behind a career-high 44 points from Isaiah Thomas.
Thomas hit 10-of-16 field goals (7-of-10 from behind the arc) and 17-of-17 free throws. He only had eight points in the first half but exploded for 29 in the second half and seven more in the extra session.
“I’m a killer,” he told CSNNE’s Kyle Draper right after the win. “I’m a killer. My team needed me to score. My team needed me to made plays. They got me open. Coach put me in position to be successful and I just took it from there.”
The win was the first for the C’s over a team with a winning percentage of at least .600 this season.
“It’s big, but it’s not just about that,” Thomas said. “It’s just about how we got the win. They were punking us in the first half and a little bit during the third quarter, and we just put our head down and said, ‘This is ours.’ And we took what we thought was ours. This might turn this season around for real.”
Al Horford also had a big game, recording 17 points and 14 rebounds, and he had a big basket late in overtime.
|Fast Break: Celtics lose Isaiah Thomas to flagrant 2 ejection but hold off Heat||12.18.16 at 8:43 pm ET|
After one quarter, Sunday’s game in Miami looked like it was going to be an uneventful Celtics runaway against a struggling Heat team.
The C’s did manage to get the win, 105-95, but it turned out to be quite an interesting finish.
The Heat, who trailed by 18 points after the first quarter and by 22 later in the half, rallied to get within five points in the closing minutes before the C’s — who lost Isaiah Thomas to an ejection — closed the door.
With 3:02 remaining, Thomas was assessed a flagrant 2 foul — which comes with an ejection — when he was trying to clear space and caught Justise Winslow with his right elbow, giving the Heat forward a bloody cheek. Winslow missed both free throws, and those misses loomed large after the Heat quickly ran off three consecutive baskets — the last a 3-pointer by Goran Dragic — to get with five points at 97-92 with two minutes remaining.
After a missed 3-pointer by Al Horford, Tyler Johnson was fouled on the rebound and hit 1-of-2 to get the margin to four. The C’s responded by going right to Horford — this time in the post. He spun on Johnson and hit a reverse layup while being fouled, then hit the ensuing free throw.
After a missed 3-pointer by Heat guard Josh Richardson, Marcus Smart found Horford open for a 15-foot jumper and the center was true again, upping the lead to nine at 102-93 with 1:02 remaining.
Another Heat turnover — Miami’s 23rd of the night — essentially ended the home team’s hopes.
Thomas finished with 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting (3-of-5 treys). Avery Bradley also shot the ball well, hitting 9-of-17 from the field and finishing with 20 points. Horford contributed 17 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Jae Crowder had 15 points, six rebounds and five steals.
|Fast Break: Celtics can’t keep pace with Kawhi Leonard, Spurs||12.15.16 at 12:04 am ET|
Celtics coach Brad Stevens can continue to preach patience, but his team looks as frustrated as its fans as it continues to plod along, losing to every good team it faces.
Wednesday night’s 108-101 loss to the Spurs comes as no surprise — especially with Isaiah Thomas still on the shelf. But at some point this team will need to turn a corner if it’s going to live up to preseason expectations.
“I’ve said the last couple of days that we’ve made progress,” Stevens said in his postgame press conference. “I didn’t think we played as well tonight as we did in Oklahoma City or maybe even at home against Toronto, but [the Spurs] had a lot to do with that. Every time that we got within striking distance, Kawhi Leonard made a huge play or they come up with a loose ball or an offensive rebound.
“They’re tremendous at maximizing every detail of the game. And hey, we’ve had our moments where we play really well, but we’re not as good as them at that.”
On the positive side for Boston, Avery Bradley continued his strong play of late, recording 25 points (10-of-16 shooting), 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals.
Jae Crowder scored 15 points, Al Horford netted 13, Terry Rozier chipped in with 12 in 25 minutes off the bench, and Marcus Smart had 11 points and six assists.
Leonard led the Spurs with 26 points, adding six assists. Pau Gasol had 17 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. Tony Parker scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and also had seven assists.
|Isaiah Thomas ruled out for Spurs game||12.13.16 at 2:23 pm ET|
Isaiah Thomas will miss his fourth straight game when he skips Wednesday night’s matchup vs. the Spurs in San Antonio. Thomas, dealing with a strained groin, did not travel on the team’s two-game road trip that started in Oklahoma City on Sunday night, but there was speculation that he might join the team in Texas if he was cleared to return.
Coach Brad Stevens told reporters that he is hoping Thomas will be back for Friday’s game at TD Garden against the Hornets.
“Isaiah is feeling a lot better,” Stevens said (via ESPNBoston.com’s Chris Forsberg). “Any pain is gone; still a little stiff.”
Thomas suffered the injury during a Dec. 5 game in Houston, although he finished that contest.
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