OLYNYK'S WILD RIDE
It's been a whirlwind six months since the Celtics drafted Kelly Olynyk, but he's enduring the ups and downs. Story
Olynyk came off the bench to score a career-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting with five assists and four rebounds over 24 minutes, 23 seconds of action during Tuesday's 92-91 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in a New Year's Eve matinee at TD Garden.
The month of December had been a bit of a grind for Olynyk after a severe right ankle sprain sidelined him for 10 games. He entered Tuesday's tilt averaging 3.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists over 13 minutes per game in six appearances since returning from the ankle ailment.
Olynyk made a couple of shots in the first half on Tuesday to help spark an inspired bench effort, and then his natural talents seemed to take over. Half of his six second-half makes came from beyond the 3-point arc as he scored 17 of his points after intermission.
"Any time you see the ball go through the net, it’s a good feeling and your confidence goes up," Olynyk said. "It helps other aspects of your game too. Obviously, you don’t want it to have to be like that. You want to be able to rebound and play defense and pass the ball even if your shot isn’t falling, and that’s what great players do. That’s the level you have to get to, but it’s always great to see one go down."
It's undeniable that Olynyk moved better and played more instinctively on Tuesday.
"I definitely felt more comfortable," he said. "I was moving better off the ankle and stuff. I felt more fluid and back to how I was feeling before."
Later he added, "You’ve got to get back in the flow [after an injury]. It’s not the same. First of all, you don’t feel the same. You’re not moving the same. You don’t have the same push or the same power. So your shot is a little bit off, some here, some there. Your jumping and stuff; defensively. So you’ve kind of got to get back into the swing of things and then get back in that physical presence too because with that ankle, you’re not moving for two weeks. It’s kind of tough."
Olynyk, the 13th pick in June's draft, still has strides to make on the defensive end, but Tuesday's glimpse was a reminder of the potential that shined through at the Orlando Summer League. Even better for Olynyk, his big night came with his father, Ken, and mother, Arlene, courtside for the game.
"He was the Gonzaga killer," teammate Courtney Lee said. "I think it was because somebody in the stands had a Gonzaga pullover and was calling for him. So it got him back going. I’m happy for the young fella."
CAN'T HOLD ANOTHER LEAD: The Celtics led by as much as 18 in the first half and 11 with little more than six minutes to go, but couldn't hold either lead. That prolongs a pattern of allowing teams to rally from sizable deficits in recent games. Stevens said, "Obviously, we had a nice lead in the second quarter, but I thought [Atlanta's] starting lineup really had a great game. And I thought our bench played as well as they could, or at least played very well, and, at the end of the day, we just strung together that one run. And then we strung together another run in the late third/early fourth that was very good. But two runs in a 48-minute game is not enough. We’ve got to play consistent for 48 minutes." Shrugged Jordan Crawford, "Teams make runs. That’s what NBA teams do."
3-POINT SHOOTING 101: Atlanta's Kyle Korver extended his NBA record for consecutive games with a 3-pointer to 101, but not without sweating it out a bit. Korver missed his first five shots beyond the arc -- and the fans were in his ear about it -- before being fouled and making a momentum-changing 3-pointer with 6:10 to play. The Hawks were previously down 11, but Korver's four-point play (Gerald Wallace was tagged with the foul) started the rally. "I was glad it finally went in," Korver said. "I had the whole section [of fans] over there reminding me that I hadn’t made a 3 yet tonight, but to me it was a decent look. I was shooting the ball flat all night and got it up a little higher and got the foul too." Asked about the importance of that play, teammate Jeff Teague said, "Man, huge. We were down 11 and when he made that it was like a momentum swing for us. To get that 3 down for him was big, we still had the streak going. We were happy about that, but we were happier to get the win."
RETURN OF THE MACK: Shelvin Mack, who starred for Stevens at Butler, didn't have a great shooting night going against his former coach, but made an impact. Mack missed eight of the nine shots he took, but finished with 5 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists over 23:20. Before the game, he detailed Stevens' impact on his career. "He helped me as a player, but also helped me as an individual," Mack said. "He let me know it’s a daily process, it takes one day at a time to reach our goals. And I think that’s helped me a lot with my NBA career and life in general." Mack spent some time around the Celtics organization last season while a member of the Maine Red Claws. He thinks a potential stint in the D-League could be beneficial for Rajon Rondo as he rehabs from ACL surgery. "I was talking to Coach Stevens, I think they have 17 games in January, so it’s kind of hard for [Rondo] to get some live action on the court -- you know with 5-on-5 because everyone else is trying to rest and get ready for games," Mack said. "[Maine is] a great situation to get some 5-on-5 against some great competition."