BOSTON — For their first game after losing a franchise cornerstone, Friday night could not have gone much better for the Celtics.
Roughly 24 hours after Rajon Rondo was dealt to the Dallas Mavericks, the Celtics took to the TD Garden parquet and raced away from the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 114-98 win.
— Kelly Olynyk was awesome again, scoring a team-high 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting off the bench while also adding eight rebounds, three assists and one block. Olynyk has scored 66 points and shot 68.4 percent during the Celtics’ current three-game winning streak.
Head coach Brad Stevens again praised Olynyk’s work ethic when speaking with reporters after the game.
“Every time it leaves his hands, I feel good,” Stevens said, “and maybe it’s because I know that he’s in (the practice gym) when no one else is. He just puts in so much time, and he deserves to make shots.”
— Marcus Smart admitted that his conditioning was not the greatest in his first game back from an Achilles strain, and it showed in the early going. The rookie guard went scoreless through the first three quarters, taking one shot, grabbing one rebound and dishing out three assists, but exploded in the fourth. Smart played every minute of the final frame, scoring all eight of his points and drilling two big 3-pointers.
“It felt good,” he said after the game. “It felt real good, actually. The first time being out there and actually feeling good to play is a good feeling.”
Smart, who’s plus-15 rating led all bench players, said he “definitely” will play when the Celtics visit the Miami Heat on Sunday.
— The efforts of Smart, Olynyk and Jeff Green (18 points; 10 in the fourth quarter) helped the Celtics pull away after the T-Wolves trimmed their deficit to two following a Shabazz Muhammad 3-pointer with 7:58 to play. Olynyk proceeded to score five of the next seven points, and Smart and Green followed with a three and a dunk, respectively, on consecutive possessions to stretch the lead back to eight. A Green trey 30 seconds later all but wrapped up the game.
— The Celtics, masters of the fourth-quarter crumble early in the season, actually have proven very adept at closing out games of late. In consecutive wins over the Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic and Timberwolves, Boston has outscored its opponents 85-57 in the final frame.
— With Rondo gone, Avery Bradley took on a much more pass-heavy role. He still took a team-high 14 shots, but he also dished out seven assists, tying his career high. Bradley hadn’t finished with more than two helpers in any of his first 22 games this season.
— The Celtics as a unit showed off some tremendous ball movement, particularly in the second half. Twenty-nine of their 48 made baskets were assisted, and seven of their 10 players finished with at least three assists.
“We had our ups and downs a little bit, but we were just playing together, moving the ball, and everyone contributed,” Olynyk said. “That’s a fun way to play.”
— Muhammad was by far the T-Wolves’ best player, torching the C’s for 26 points on 11-of-15 shooting.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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