Three takeaways on the Celtics’ 115-105 Game 7 victory over the Wizards, which I presume gets Brad Stevens off the hot-seat …
The vast majority of the 18,624 fans and other assorted folks who entered TD Garden Monday night probably presumed they would witness something interesting and memorable. It was a Game 7 after all, and as Isaiah Thomas reminded us after the Celtics’ loss in Game 6, this is when legends are made.
I do not believe many among those 18,624 fans expected to witness Kelly Olynyk’s legend being made. Yet when his night’s work was done, the performance under pressure by the usually laconic Canadian was so impressive and necessary that fans were chanting his name in delirious unison.
Olynyk scored 26 points off the bench on 10 of 14 shooting. Twelve of the points came in a stretch that lasted less than four minutes in the fourth quarter when the Celtics finally seized control of a battle as tense as a Game 7 is supposed to be.
It was undoubtedly the finest performance of his career, especially considering the context and the circumstances, an unexpected clinic — or Klynyk, if you will — by the fourth-year forward.
Olynyk was so hot in the fourth quarter that Kelly Oubre could have come flying off the Wizards’ bench to flatten him and he would have buried the shot. He was so hot it was a surprise his man-bun didn’t spontaneously combust. He scored 7 straight Celtics points at one point, and his 3 at the 6:15 mark of the fourth increased the lead to 101-93 at a point when the Wizards were still putting up a furious fight.
He had his moments in the first half as well, at a time when many of his teammates were struggling to make open shots. His hard drive and finish — plus a foul — gave the Celtics a 27-23 lead after one. He had another clever bucket at 10:11 of the third, taking a Thomas pass and finishing with a reverse layup. It’s only slightly passive-aggressive to suggest he’s one of the better finishers in the league when he’s not actually facing the basket.
No complaints about Olynyk today, though. He delivered his absolute best in the biggest game of the Brad Stevens era. Maybe we didn’t see it coming, but it sure was fun to watch, even among Olynyk’s NBA colleagues.
This is some game…
— Dirk Nowitzki (@swish41) May 16, 2017
Olynyk’s performance must have looked pretty familiar to ol’ Dirk.
The fourth quarter has belonged to Isaiah Thomas on more occasions than we can recall this season. Monday night, he got started early, activating his I’ve-got-this routine before the third quarter was even complete.
As great as Olynyk was in Game 7, it was Thomas, again and as usual, who was the Celtics’ leading scorer. He finished with 29 points and, just as important, 12 assists with just 2 turnovers.
He took command late in the third quarter, hitting a pair of 3-pointers during a 9-0 Celtics run that gave them a six-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. He scored 8 straight Celtics points at one point in the third as a 76-74 deficit turned into an 82-79 lead.
The run carried five minutes into the fourth quarter, with a Thomas pull-up 3-pointer capping an 18-2 Celtics burst for a 94-81 lead.
Thomas’s feats are commonplace by now, the Little Guy (trademark, Tommy Heinsohn) constantly delivering in big ways. He did it again Monday night, including a crucial drive for a 105-97 lead in which he ricocheted off a pair of Wizards defenders en route to the hoop. (It should be noted that the officials were not swayed by the Boston crowd; they called this game as if it were being played in Wes Unseld’s driveway.)
Game 7 was one more reminder that it is such a privilege to watch Thomas at this point in time, someone who shoots with the confidence of a player who has never considered the possibility of missing.
A quick salute to the Wizards, who made for good villains even in defeat.
Provided that young players like Oubre and Otto Porter continue to improve, dynamos Bradley Beal (37 points) and John Wall figure out how to make each other better rather than taking turns with the ball, and Marcin Gortat doesn’t return to his home planet, they’re going to be a rival to be reckoned with for a number of years.
They were a worthy foil in a wildly unpredictable, entertaining and — for the Celtics — fulfilling series. The Wizards were damn good, and now their season is done. Fade to black.