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Kelly Olynyk ‘playing with a lot of confidence’ off the bench 12.01.16 at 12:24 pm ET
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Kelly Olynyk drives against Andre Drummond (0) during the third quarter Wednesday at TD Garden. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Kelly Olynyk drives against Andre Drummond (0) during the third quarter Wednesday at TD Garden. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Don’t look now, but Kelly Olynyk has become an integral part of the Celtics offense.

Now the second-longest tenured player on the Celtics in his fourth season in the league, it appears as if the growing pains are starting to diminish by the game, with Olynyk finding ways to execute on both ends of the floor.

He furthered validated his value in the Celtics’ loss to the Pistons Wednesday night at the TD Garden. With 19 points, he was second-highest on the team in points, behind only Isaiah Thomas. In the process, he went 7-for-9 from the field and 3-for-4 from 2-point territory.

“Felt good, got some open looks and kept rolling from there,” Olynyk said following the loss.

The 25-year-old Canadian’s style of play has always been something of an enigma. Standing at 7-feet, Olynyk has always been best utilized as a perimeter player. He led the Celtics in 3-point percentage last season, but can still pose a threat in the paint. That is often lost when judging Olynyk, largely because of the unsettling feeling of a 7-footer being best served as a perimeter player, especially on a team that gets dismantled nearly every night on the glass.

With that in mind, Olynyk’s game has never been to be a massive body in the paint. From his days at Gonzaga through his time in Boston, he’s a perimeter player who can stretch the floor and sidle into the paint and make plays.

“His ability to stretch the floor is big for us and he’s doing a pretty good job of picking his spots as well on seals and different post ups,” said coach Brad Stevens. “But at the end of the day what makes him different is his ability to stretch the floor.”

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WEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

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Fast Break: Celtics threaten but come up short against Pistons 11.30.16 at 9:53 pm ET
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Nov 30, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas (4) takes a shot while guarded by Detroit Pistons forward Tobias Harris (34) during the second quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas takes it to the basket Wednesday night against Detroit. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics pushed and pushed, but couldn’t break through enough to take control, falling to the Pistons at home Wednesday night 121-114.

Defense was lacking throughout the game on both sides, but the Celtics’ defensive woes stood out through the entirety of the game, letting all five of the Pistons’ starters into double figures before the start of the fourth quarter.

“In a game like [Wednesday’s] you’ve got to be even more in their airspace and you’ve got to capitalize even more on the offensive end, otherwise you’re probably in trouble,” said coach Brad Stevens.

Per usual, Isaiah Thomas drove the bus for the Celtics offense, dropping 27 points to go with his four assists. Kelly Olynyk had a solid night of his own, going 3-for-4 from deep and 7-for-9 from the field for 19 points.

Regardless of any Celtics offensive effort, they were lost defensively, getting worked over by whichever member of the Pistons stepped up at a given moment. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the charge with 25 points while Tobias Harris put away 21 points. The Pistons shot 55-percent from the field as a team.

All the while, Andre Drummond was a force in the paint, topping off his 20 point performance off with 17 rebounds — eight of which coming on the offensive end.

“They’re a hard team to match up with,” said Stevens. “But again, if you’re playing a team that feels good about themselves, which they do, and is physical, you’ve got to really get in their airspace. And we just didn’t quite do it enough of the time, but I don’t want to take away from their play, their level of play was high tonight”

As has been the story all season, the Celtics could not find a way to grab a rebound, getting outrebounded 51-33. In the early stages of the game, it looked as if rebounding issues would potentially be circumvented, with Amir Johnson grabbing four boards in the first two minutes. But as time went on the Celtics continued to struggle on the glass.

“I think they just wanted it more,” said Avery Bradley. “They played hard the entire game.”

The Celtics never truly went away throughout the game, but never found enough answers on the defensive end to make a series of stops to let them push ahead. They went ahead by one with 7:26 left in the game, but never had the fortitude to push away.

For a complete box score, click here.

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WEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

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Full Court Press: Sounding the alarm, Isaiah Thomas calls out coaches, IT can’t keep bailing C’s out 11.19.16 at 9:57 am ET
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Nov 18, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) tries to get between Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) and Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been Isaiah Thomas or nothing this season for the Celtics. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The imagery was too rich. Moments after Friday’s 104-88 wipeout at the hands of the Warriors, fire alarms were going off all around TD Garden. Fire trucks had trouble getting down the side streets leading up to the Garden to turn off the annoying sounds that delayed Brad Stevens’ postgame explanation of the mess. 

Turns out, a grill on the fourth floor malfunctioned and overheated, setting off the 20-minute disruption. 

If only fixing the Celtics were that easy. But we’ll try. 

1. Shorten the bench. From early on in camp, the thought was that having a deep bench could strengthen rotations for Brad Stevens. It hasn’t worked that way. The bench is not producing enough and is getting constantly outdone by the opposing group of reserves. On Friday, three players on the bench had at least 23 minutes. Part of that was because of garbage time in the fourth and part of it was traveling to Detroit after the game for a back-to-back Saturday. A good three or four man rotation off the bench is the sweet spot for most NBA teams and the return of Jae Crowder and Al Horford should help that. 

2. Pray for health. The Celtics have been admittedly hard hit by injuries early in the season. Crowder (left ankle) and Horford (concussion) have missed most of the season while Marcus Smart dinged his left ankle Friday night. Crowder and Horford should return on the trip while the prognosis for Smart does not seem dire. When you’re missing two-thirds of your starting front court, there is going to be a problem.  The Celtics have been using this as a bit of crutch but it’s been a legitimate issue that has stunted their ability to improve early on. 

3. Bench Kelly Olynyk. He spaces the floor but at some point, when you’re 0-for-5 as a finesse big man and have grab three rebounds in 17 minutes, the message needs to be sent. The Celtics can’t afford his finesse game right now. They need bigs who will get dirty. Olynyk is heading back to the bench and he should probably stay there until the 7-footer shows the ability and determination to help on the inside. Stevens certainly sounds like he’s going to try and support Olynyk on board for as long as he needs him. “Kelly, I thought, has always done a lot of good things for us. There’s some tough match-ups out there [Friday] and I think that he’s had better games; he’d be the first to tell you. But he’s been a good player for us.”

4. Press more and create transition. This is a team with Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Smart. When they’re on the court, they should limit their half-court exposure and use their quickness to their advantage. With Crowder and Horford out, Stevens tried going with Jaylen Brown and Tyler Zeller to match up big for big. That didn’t work. They went to Smart to guard much bigger bigs. Not a bad idea considering he’s the healthiest low-post defender. In half-court, trapping more couldn’t hurt. They desperately need to create turnovers and transition offense for easy baskets, a category they dominated last spring when they made a run to 48 wins. 

5. Get to the basket. The Celtics are taking 30 threes a game, making 10 of them. The instant gratification from that is great. Here’s the problem: They’re not drawing fouls on the opposition and, outside of Isaiah Thomas (9/9 Friday) they’re not getting to the free throw line. Thomas is fifth in the league getting to the line, averaging 10 free throws a game, making 9. The inside game of the Celtics is lacking and that takes some dirty work. Do the dirty work, get to the line and rebound. All of that happens when there’s more of an inside commitment. 

Attitude problem:

Isaiah Thomas finally had enough after Friday’s 104-88 embarrassment on national TV to would-be Celtic Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors. 

The Celtics were humiliated 31-9 in the third quarter, a period that featured an 18-0 run by the Warriors. The Celtics were an abysmal 2-of-17 from the field and 1-of-9 from 3-point range. 

Al Horford or no Al Horford, Jae Crowder or no Jae Crowder, those numbers are appalling.

“We know we have two of our key players out and that’s no excuse but we were in the game for one half,” Thomas said. “Everybody seen that third quarter open it up. So if you take away that third quarter and play as close to 48 minutes as possible, we’d still be in the game. You can’t let a team like that go on a run like that and expect to come back.

And what’s more concerning is the lack of consistency the Celtics have shown over a 6-6 start to the season. Opposing teams aren’t just snubbing the Celtics like Durant, they’re rubbing their noses in it like Durant’s front court colleague Zaza Pachulia, who did a dance after a 17-footer that capped the 18-0 spurt. That shot made it 79-51. 

“Yeah. At that point, the game is turned around,” Thomas said. “I guess we we gave up. I mean, coaching staff as well. We started subbing, it was bad. Especially, I only played 27 minutes. We gave up.”

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Fast Break: Isaiah Thomas, Celtics blow out Knicks 11.11.16 at 10:03 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas

The Celtics were very hungry for a win. 

After two consecutive lopsided defeats, the Celtics reverted to their old ways and put together their strongest defensive performance of the season in a 115-87 win at TD Garden. 

Isaiah Thomas scored a game-high 29 points, Kelly Olynyk added 19 points and seven rebounds in his first start of the season and Avery Bradley finished with a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds). Seven Celtics scored in double figures. 

From the tip, the Celtics were aggressive in the opening minutes — grabbing a 19-8 lead. But New York came back when Carmelo Anthony caught fire and scored 12 first-quarter points to help push his team to within four points (31-27) after the game’s first 12 minutes.

However, the Knicks never held a lead throughout the second quarter but their rebounding certainly kept things close. New York dominated the Celtics on the glass — giving them plenty of chances but the Knicks only scored five second-chance points off of 12 offensive rebounds. 

With 4:44 left in the first half, the Celtics caught a break when Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony refuted a loose ball foul called by NBA official Tony Brothers. After he was handed an initial technical foul, Anthony continued to plead his case with Brothers which resulted in a second technical foul and was ejected from the game. Anthony finished the night with 12 points and two rebounds in 12 minutes. 

Following the ejection, the Celtics topped off an 11-3 run and finished the half with a 10-point lead (61-51). It was the first time the Celtics have allowed fewer than 54 first-half points in their last three games.

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Celtics pregame notes: Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk will start against Knicks at 7:12 pm ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

For the first time this season, Brad Stevens will start Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk in place of Jae Crowder (left ankle) and Al Horford (concussion) against the Knicks on Friday. 

Stevens emphasized the importance of getting off to a strong start against New York and said that defense played a major part in his decision to start Smart and Olynyk.

“I thought we started pretty well in Cleveland but we haven’t started well the last two games,” Stevens said. “I think Tyler [Zeller] has actually done some really good things — I think he’ll be able to play off the bench well. I think that Jaylen [Brown] obviously has done some good things, he’ll be able to play off the bench well. But I know that with Marcus and Kelly I think that from my evaluation the other night they were probably our two best defenders in the game the other night so I’d like to start off with that mindset right out of the gate.”

The Celtics are in the midst of a three-game losing streak and have gotten out to horrendous starts. They’ve allowed 76 points combined in the last two opening quarters and surrendered their biggest loss of the young season on Wednesday — a 118-93 blowout against the Wizards. Although it’s still very early in the regular season, Stevens understands his team’s performance the past two games were unacceptable.

“I think I have to be able to take a step back and say there’s a lot of games to be played, we haven’t played very well the last couple,” Stevens explained. “We’re far from a finished product and we’re far from a full team. But at the same time these games come at you a million miles an hour and you only get one chance to play each of them. So you gotta put your best foot forward and we need to play better. May not ever guarantee the result you want but we need to play better basketball than we played the last few nights.”

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Al Horford to miss 4th straight game, Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) makes trip to D.C. 11.08.16 at 1:29 pm ET
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Al Horford

Al Horford

The Celtics will be without their $113 million man for a fourth straight game when they take on the Wizards on Wednesday night. The team announced Tuesday that Al Horford stayed back in Boston to continue in the NBA’s concussion protocol. 

Horford has played in just three games this season after suffering a concussion in practice on Halloween. 

Brad Stevens said after practice Monday that Horford had not made any progress in the protocol. Before getting injured in practice, Horford was averaging 12 points and 5.3 rebounds with seven blocks in three games. 

As for another big man, Jae Crowder will miss his third straight game after twisting his left ankle against the Bulls at TD Garden on Nov. 2. Crowder also did not make the trip to D.C. Tuesday as he continues to receive treatment. 

With Crowder and Horford out of the lineup the last two games, the Celtics have allowed 122 points in a loss at Cleveland and 123 last Sunday night at home to Denver. 

The Celtics could be getting back Kelly Olynyk, who has missed the first six games as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery. Olynyk has been practicing with the team since Oct. 20. 

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Marcus Smart: ‘I will return Wednesday’ 10.31.16 at 2:31 pm ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

The Celtics bench, which has struggled at times in the early portion of this season, is about to get a boost.

Point guard Marcus Smart, who has missed the season’s first three games with a sprained left ankle, said he’ll be back in uniform for Wednesday’s rematch with the Bulls at TD Garden.

“I will return Wednesday,” he stated after practicing with the team Monday.

Coach Brad Stevens was a little less definitive but also optimistic that Smart will get his season started this week.

“He’s one of our returning most-contributive players, so that’s a big addition to our team,” Stevens said. “He looked good today. We’ll see how he feels in the next couple of days. But every indication is that he’ll be available.”

Stevens said he’ll consult with trainers to determine if he should limit Smart’s minutes, but Smart said he won’t make any adjustments in an attempt to ease his way back.

“You go right back to what you know,” Smart said. “You can’t try to baby it.”

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