On a night when the Boston Celtics were desperate to snap a three-game losing streak, they found the perfect antidote: facing the Philadelphia 76ers. Behind a career-high 30 points from Kelly Olynyk, Boston cruised to a 105-87 victory over the hapless Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center. Local product Nerlens Noel was the lone bright spot for the hosts, scoring a career-high 19 points.
The Celtics trailed by as many as nine points in the opening moments of the contest after missing their first nine shots from the field, but Olynyk’s early insertion into the game off the bench turned the tide quickly. The second-year big man posted 14 of his 30 points in the first quarter alone, scoring from inside and out and helping Boston turn an 11-2 deficit into a five point lead at the end of the period.
From there, Boston’s defensive intensity helped them stretch out the lead. With Marcus Smart (Achilles) and Marcus Thornton (calf) sidelined, both Phil Pressey and Gerald Wallace provided some much-needed defensive intensity, holding the hosts to just four points in the first six minutes of the second quarter. The Celtics opened up a double-digit lead during that drought and did not look back for the remainder of the night, limiting the Sixers to 35 percent shooting and forcing 23 turnovers.
While Boston’s solid defensive effort was a nice surprise, Olynyk was the story of the night with his stellar all-around play. He shot the ball with confidence, going a superb 12-of-17 from the field, and also added nine rebounds, three steals and a pair of blocks over 32 minutes.
The breakout performance by the seven-footer comes as an encouraging sign for Celtics fans. The big man has struggled on the offensive end for much of the past month, which led to his demotion to the bench in favor of Tyler Zeller.
Olynyk’s offensive inconsistency had created a conundrum for coach Brad Stevens in recent weeks, as he attempted to balance giving the 23-year-old minutes to develop, and distributing playing time to the rest of a crowded Boston frontcourt that had been giving the Celtics a better chance to win most games. A 30-point effort like this from Olynyk shows that Stevens still may be able to do both as the season continues.
Olynyk and the Celtics return home for their next contest Wednesday night against the Orlando Magic.