Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Isaiah Thomas talked for the previous 72 hours about how legends were born in Game 7. But on a night when 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 their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
There are different players on this Celtics team that we’ve singled out over the year as exemplifying the team’s overall attitude, whether it’s Jae and Marcus’s toughness, or Jae and Isaiah’s underdog mentality. Avery Bradley’s two-way skills or Amir’s lunch-pail dependability.
But last night, Kelly Olynyk reminded us that he is, in fact, the true spirit animal for this season’s team.
The Celtics are going into the Eastern Conference Finals with a starting lineup that has three second round picks, a team that, at first glance, looks like a collection of cast-offs assembled by a hoarder of a GM, who hasn’t seen a borderline rotation player that he could say ‘no’ to.
There is no way this team should be here. If you have seen the 26-0 run, or the 22-0 run, or the 16-0 run that the Celtics gave up to the Wizards, you will agree, there’s no way this team should be here. In fact, during those runs, the team didn’t even look like it belonged in the NBA.
And yet, here we are. Somehow this collection of misfit toys not only won 53 games this season, they’re headed to the conference finals. Somehow a team that for whole stretches of some games, and for the entirety of others, looked like a volleyball team that wandered onto the wrong court, is in the ECF.
And that’s why Kelly Olynyk is their spirit animal.
Have you seen Kelly drive the lane? He looks like an over-served stork trying to pass a sobriety test. And yet it works? There are entire games where you wonder if he’s even in the same time zone as the rest of the team. But then you look at the stat sheet, and geez. He wasn’t that bad. He’s a good defender who looks like he’d get faked out by Betty White, a guy who, at first glance, looks like a stretched out version of Shaggy from Scooby Doo more than he looks like a professional basketball player, and yet he finished the year with the second best FG% and eFG% on the team.
In short, Kelly Olynyk is just that sort of ‘surprisingly better than you’d think not much to look at easy to dismiss but he’ll make you pay’ guy that typifies how the Celtics have been this season.
The Celtics are this odd mishmash of spare parts that at first glance clearly shouldn’t be able to do what they do. Well, if you’ve ever seen Kelly Olynyk move with a basketball, that description applies pretty well to him too.
Page 2: Where the C’s have nothing to lose
As we’ve noted here before, the Cavs ceded the No. 1 seed to the C’s because they essentially chose to. They rested people while losing their last four regular-season games and finishing two wins shy of the Bostonians.
But that has changed quickly and dramatically.
“They’ve been playing at a really high level,” understated Horford. “I think that the regular season for them was just kind of like, let’s get through it. Now they’ve just turned it up to another level. So it’s going to be a fun challenge for our group.”
It gets to be fun for the Celtics for precisely the reason they’re getting their backs up. According to coach Kristofferson, freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.
And by reaching the conference finals just four seasons after Danny Ainge detonated the previous core with the Brooklyn trade, the Celts have already accomplished more than could have been expected on that day in July of ’13 when the trade of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett became official.
As John and Sam Packard discussed on last night’s Rainin’J’s podcast, the C’s season was a complete success as soon as they knocked off the Wizards. Last night’s game, irrelevant as it is in the long run, was the capstone to the season. Anything they do after this is gravy. Maybe they can steal a couple games, maybe the fans can be just loud enough to give LeBron a deja-vu moment.
But in the meantime, let’s just sit back and enjoy the next few days, rare moments for fans, when we can be pleased with what a team has accomplished without that team winning a title. You may or may not have heard that the draft lottery is tonight, so let’s figure out exactly what combination of socks, shirts and hair cuts and baseball caps we will need to ensure that Boston gets the top pick in the draft.
Finally: Al is worth every penny
The rest of the links:
Providence Journal: Kevin McNamara: Cleveland is next for underdog Celts
Kelly is a hero stories
Boston Herald: Buckley: Kelly Olynyk’s type of performance provides hope against Cavaliers | Celtics put it all together to close out Wizards in Game 7 | How did Boston Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk torch Washington Wizards in Game 7? ‘We lost our composure’
Preview of the next matchup
ESPN Boston: Thomas: Underdog status to keep driving C’s