Avery Bradley led the Boston Celtics with 26 points last night in their win over the Philadelphia 76ers, Isaiah Thomas did his thing by scoring 24 points of his own and Al Horford led a massive fourth quarter charge by scoring 14 points over the final eight minutes of action, while also drilling a clutch go-ahead three with 17.2 seconds remaining.
The game might have been a bit too close for comfort in the end, but having each of your three best players step up like that is sure to steal all the post game headlines. People mostly want to talk about Horford hitting the big shot and then look at the solid scoring night for Boston’s starting back court, but this might have taken a little shine off two role players who came up huge in what was a gritty comeback for the Celtics; Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk
Olynyk didn’t shoot the ball that well last night. The Canadian big man was 2-for-7 from the field, but his impact was still felt and this was something that led to him posting a team high +8 rating on the night. His high basketball IQ was on full display last night after he baited Joel Embiid in to back-to-back fouls late in the third quarter, putting the 76ers rising star at five fouls and forcing him to spend an extended period of time on the bench. The first foul came when Olynyk got Emiid to bite hard on a pump fake as the shot clock was expiring and then Olynyk drew a charge on the very next possession. Embiid would spend the next seven minutes on the bench and Philladelphia had lost their lead by the time he got back in with 5:45 remaining in the fourth quarter.
There’s no denying it, Olynyk has his flaws and there are some nights – like yesterday – where his shots just aren’t falling. But the ability to make smart basketball moves – like trapping the 76ers best player into consecutive fouls – is something that fans in Boston have become accustom to. His intelligence as a player has earned full trust from head coach Brad Stevens, which is why you see him averaging roughly 20 minutes per game while still being on the floor when the game is on the line.
Go an re-watch Horford’s game winner from last night.
Olynyk had the ball in his hands and began to drive, but he had the presence of mind to find his teammate open in the corner so he could sink the big shot. Stevens said after the game that he drew up the play knowing Thomas would get doubled after Olynyk rolled off a screen, leaving him open and giving him the decision to shoot or find Horford. Once an open Olynyk started moving towards the basket with the ball, Embiid left Horford to go and stop Olynyk and that’s why the corner three was so open.
That gave Olynyk his fifth assist on the night as he was able to consistantly find ways to help the offense even though he was having issues getting his shots to fall. The former Gonzaga star also finished with four rebounds and eight points.
But let’s not forget about Amir Johnson. While Olynyk led the team with a +8 rating, Johnson wasn’t too far behind as he posted a +7 of his own as his impact was felt on both ends of the floor and he did something that only one other Celtic has done before him.
As weird and random of a stat as that is, you have to be a fan of anyone sharing a piece of history with Rasheed Wallace.
Johnson was really Mr. Everything for the Celtics last night. He finished with 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and a steal to go along with those four blocks in just 26 minutes of playing time, while he also got to shine a bit in the final second like Olynyk did. After Olynyk’s big assist on the eventual game winner, the 76ers called a timeout and this allowed Johnson to take Olynyk’s place on the floor. Sixers power forward Ersan Ilyasova launched a three pointer on the ensuing possession and that’s when Johnson snagged an impressive rebound through traffic, drew an intentional foul and had Boston on their way to victory.
Guys like Horford, Bradley and Thomas will continue to take headlines as the season goes along, but one thing that makes these Celtics so exciting is the ability for everyone to come up big in their own way. It was Olynyk and Johsnon last night, we all remember Gerald Green dropping 19 points out of seemingly nowhere against the Memphis Grizzlies just a week ago and we’ll surly see games throughout the season where a Jonas Jerebko or a Jaylen Brown step up in a big way to make an impact in limited minutes.
Who’s it going to be against the New Orleans Pelicans tonight? Only time will tell, but the mystery makes tuning in worth it.