Olynyk the improbable hero of Game 7 for Celtics
BOSTON — Late in the fourth quarter, after his 3-pointer put the Boston Celtics out front by double digits, the TD Garden faithful celebrated Kelly Olynyk‘s improbable Game 7 performance by chanting his name.
“Kelly! Kelly! Kelly!”
Isaiah Thomas talked for the previous 72 hours about how legends were born in Game 7. But on a night that both Thomas and Bradley Beal were spectacular, it was Boston’s 7-foot backup center who somehow stole the show.
Olynyk scored 12 of his career playoff high 26 points over a three-and-a-half-minute stretch of the fourth quarter as the Celtics emerged with a 115-105 triumph over the Washington Wizards in Game 7 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series at TD Garden.
Boston is headed back to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2012. The top-seeded Celtics host the second-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 on Wednesday night at TD Garden.
Olynyk is the first Celtics reserve to score 25-plus points in a playoff game since Eddie House scored 31 on May 6, 2009, against the Orlando Magic. Olynyk finished 10-of-14 shooting overall, all four of his misses coming from behind the 3-point arc, where he typically does his damage.
But on this night, Olynyk picked the Wizards apart inside, feasting when the defense rushed to contest Thomas, who finished with a team-high 29 points.
Beal had a game-high 38 points and let the Wizards hang around in the fourth quarter. John Wall finished with just 18 points on 8-of-23 shooting overall.
TD Garden felt tense for the entirety of the middle quarters, and the Wall/Beal tandem seemed to have an answer each time Boston went on a brief run to pull close. Over the final 1:46 of the third quarter, Thomas and Marcus Smart combined for a trio of 3-pointers as the Celtics closed on a 9-0 burst to take a six-point lead to the final frame.
Boston ultimately stretched its run to 18-2, culminating with Thomas’ straightaway 3-pointer that had the Celtics out front 94-81 with 10 minutes to play. The Wizards called timeout and immediately responded with a 7-0 run that forced Celtics coach Brad Stevens to call his own timeout to settle his players with Boston’s lead down to six.
That’s when Olynyk went to work and ensured Boston’s spot in the conference finals.
The Wizards were bidding for their first trip beyond the second round since 1979. That year, the top-seeded Bullets beat San Antonio in the East finals before falling to Seattle in five games in the NBA Finals.