Celts Lose, but Olynyk Continues To Evolve

BOSTON – No NBA team walks away from a 20-point loss with a list of things to gloat about. But if it looks deep into the depths of those 48 minutes, there’s always something positive to find.

In the case of the Boston Celtics Wednesday night, that positive was Kelly Olynyk. Olynyk, who returned from a two-game absence due to a toe injury, was Boston’s best player. In fact, he was essentially Boston’s only player at the offensive end of the court.

Olynyk racked up a game-high 19 points while the rest of his teammates struggled to handle Golden State’s hounding defense. He finished the game having accounted for 20 percent of Boston’s made field goals and 43 percent of its made 3-pointers.

Kelly Olynyk attempts a driving layup.

Kelly Olynyk returned from injury to score a game-high 19 points Wednesday night.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

If anyone had any worries about Olynyk losing the rhythm and aggressiveness he had found prior to his injury, those worries have been washed away. He played with the same confidence and aggressiveness that netted him 21 points in his last game on Feb. 24.

Asked why he believes Olynyk is beginning to show this heightened level of aggressiveness, Brad Stevens joked, “Well I hope it’s because we’ve told him to shoot every single second since he’s been here, and he just started listening.”

Stevens jokes, but the truth is that Olynyk is listening, and he’s following through on his orders. Olynyk will now catch the ball beyond the 3-point line and the first thing he’ll do is eye the front of the rim. He’s ready and willing to let it fly if he has a clear sightline.

Rewind to as recently as January and that simply was not the case. Olynyk was timid and slow to react. He would shoot, but he didn’t look like he wanted to shoot.

Things are different nowadays, as Olynyk is willing to admit. He experienced a difficult learning curve when he began his rookie season but that curve has since flattened out. The game has slowed down for the 7-foot Canadian.

“This far in, you can see where shots are coming,” Olynyk said Wednesday night. “You know when guys are stunting and when they’re full-rotating and that kind of stuff; who’s going to take you, who’s bluffing. So you can kind of find the seams, pick your spots. It’s a lot easier now.”

It looks a lot easier now. Olynyk looks like a completely different player, one who’s on the right track to close out his first professional campaign with a bang.

“I think he’s on the right progression. He’s on the right path,” Stevens said of Olynyk’s growth this season. “I think he’s rebounding a little bit better, as we talked about before the game. He’s shooting the 3 a little bit more freely now than he was at the start of our season.”

That being said, there is still a lot of room for Olynyk to improve.

“I think he’s still learning and growing on the defensive end of the floor and the offensive end of the floor,” said Stevens, “but he’s getting a little more aggressive offensively, shooting the ball, which is good.”

Olynyk will reap the benefits from his newfound aggressiveness, and so will the Celtics. His shooting and passing abilities make him a prime candidate for pick-and-roll offense. When he plays like he did tonight, Boston is a better team at that end of the floor. As Stevens put it, “Everything seems to run very fluidly when he’s in the game.”

Now let’s be honest, there wasn’t a whole lot of fluidity for the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night. Golden State beat them running away and strangled their offense. Such facts, however, don’t preclude the Celtics from finding a diamond in the rough.

Olynyk returned from his two-game absence and looked like a rookie who’s ready to make some noise over the final six weeks of the season.