In Kelly We Trust: Olynyk Re-Emerges vs. Pistons

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst

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BOSTON – The Kelly Olynyk bandwagon undoubtedly lost some weight over the past couple of weeks.

For those of you who may have fallen (or jumped) off, it’s time to get back on.

Olynyk re-emerged as one of Boston’s rising stars Wednesday night as he helped lead the Celtics to a 109-102 victory over the Detroit Pistons. He came off of the bench to score 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting and also grabbed seven rebounds, dished out three assists, ripped two steals and blocked three shots.

Following a seven-game stretch that featured a demotion to the bench and averages of just 5.4 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per game, this was a much-needed breath of fresh air for the second-year big man. As teammate Evan Turner put it, “I think he for sure needed this game.”

The Celtics needed Olynyk to have this game, too.

Olynyk is one of the most important pieces of this Celtics puzzle. In an offense that largely revolves around skilled big men, Olynyk’s abilities are critical. He is capable of opening up the entire offensive end of the court for his teammates.

“When he’s knocking down shots like that,” said Jared Sullinger, “it makes [opponents] change up [their] lineup because... he’s a bear on the offensive end. He can create off the dribble, knock down the open 3, the pick-and-pop. He’s got so many things he can do.”

The Celtics were ecstatic to see those skills on display Wednesday night following a two-week absence. What may have been a more significant sign, however, is that Olynyk re-emerged following a rough start to his night.

The first quarter was one to forget for Olynyk. He looked like the guy who had struggled mightily throughout his previous seven games. During three minutes and 10 seconds of first-quarter action, the big man contributed one foul, one missed shot and one turnover. That’s it.

Olynyk’s bandwagon likely became even lighter following that stretch of play, and rightfully so. After all, over the past couple of weeks, he hadn’t given outsiders any reason to believe that he would turn it around.

But he did.

Olynyk battled through the adversity and righted his 7-foot ship. Brad Stevens called his name again with 8:24 remaining in the second quarter, and 65 seconds later, Olynyk splashed home a 3-pointer that barely touched the net.

That shot changed everything for Olynyk. It didn’t take long before he was back to doing his typical Olynyk-like things.

“I got a couple of easy [shots] to go,” he said after the game, “and I got that confidence to shoot a couple more.”

A couple, as in 12. Olynyk began looking for his shot every time he touched the ball, and that’s exactly what his coach wants to see.

“I love that,” Stevens exclaimed. “That’s what he does.”

The coach did, however, selfishly request that Olynyk does that more often from behind the arc.

“One of the things that bothers me is how many fewer 3s he’s taken than other guys, especially with the way he’s shooting. His percentage is probably the best on the team,” said Stevens, who accurately pointed to Olynyk’s team-leading 3-point conversion rate of 41.7 percent. “I want all of those guys to take what they’re taking, but I want him to take a lot more.”

Olynyk’s teammates feel the same way. Sullinger and Turner raved about what he brings to the table, and specifically, his 3-point shooting. They believe he is an elite shooter, prompting Sullinger to quip, “In Kelly we trust.”

The question is, do you?

Fewer and fewer people trusted Olynyk as the past two weeks wore on. They fell off the proverbial bandwagon, forgetting that this is a second-year player who is still finding his way.

Every player hits rough patches. Even LeBron James. What matters most is how they respond to those rough patches.

Olynyk answered in a big way Wednesday night, and that should leave us all saying, “In Kelly we trust.”