BOSTON — “Confidence.” The word has followed Kelly Olynyk around like lost puppy this season.
When the Celtics center was playing well, the line was that he should have the confidence to shoot more. And when his game slipped, as it had over the last few weeks? You guessed it: lack of confidence.
On Wednesday, Olynyk decided to show everyone just how confident he really is.
In his third game since being replaced by Tyler Zeller in the starting lineup, Olynyk went off, turning in one of his most complete efforts of the season to help lead the Celtics to a 109-102 overtime win over the Detroit Pistons.
Olynyk’s first stint in relief of Zeller was nothing special — he failed to score a point in the first quarter and struggled defending the Pistons’ big-man duo of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe — but he began to gain steam when he returned to the floor in the second.
“Kelly hasn’t been shooting the ball well, but every shot he takes, we have confidence that he can make it,” forward Jared Sullinger said. “He got a couple of easy layups, and him getting a couple of easy layups kind of got the ball rolling for him. He played great.”
The second-year center’s production through the first three quarters (10 points, four rebounds) already was enough to earn him a favorable review, but it wasn’t until the fourth that he truly made his mark on the game. Olynyk collected seven points, three rebounds, two assists, three blocks and two steals one six-minute span before heading to the bench with five fouls.
All told, Olynyk’s 20 points represented his highest total in nearly a month (Nov. 4) and his first foray into double figures since Nov. 21. He also showed a willingness to let it fly from 3-point land, hitting two of his four attempts from beyond the arc.
“I love that,” said head coach Brad Stevens, who long has been urging Olynyk to put up more shots. “That’s what he does. One of the things that bothers me a little bit is how much fewer threes he’s taken than other guys, especially with the way he’s shooting. His percentage is probably the best on our team. I want all those guys to take what they’re taking, but I want him to take a lot more.”
Olynyk’s fourth-quarter outburst preceded yet another late-game Celtics collapse, as the Pistons rallied from 11 points down in the final 3:28 to force overtime. Boston ultimately regathered itself in the extra session, though, riding a flurry of 3-pointers by Sullinger and Jeff Green to a sorely needed victory.
“It was good,” Olynyk said. “We’ve still got lots to improve on down the stretch to hold that, but the team came back. The dam was getting hit and getting hit, but it didn’t break. That’s a good thing.”
Do those sound like the words of a confident man? One of Olynyk’s teammates sure thinks so.
“See the outfit he’s got on?” Sullinger said, motioning toward Olynyk’s sweater, Red Sox cap and bright-red backpack. “He don’t need no confidence. He’s perfectly fine. He’s playing one hell of a game. In Kelly we trust.”
Thumbnail photo via Elise Amendola/Associated Press