Thursday, 10 July 2014
Great Success! Olynyk, Smart Excel in Celts Win
ORLANDO – Celtics fans must be smiling after watching Saturday’s 85-77 win over the Heat, which featured impressive performances from Boston’s top pick in each of the past two Drafts.
The Celtics traded up to the 13th pick a year ago on Draft night in order to select Kelly Olynyk. This year, they selected Marcus Smart with the sixth overall selection. The two are viewed as key pieces to Boston’s future, and they showed why on Saturday.
Olynyk is primed to dominate Orlando’s summer league for the second consecutive year. Last July, he put up averages of 18.0 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game and was selected to the All-Summer League First Team. He continued that trend on Saturday.
Miami had no answers for the 7-footer as he racked up numbers in nearly every major statistical category. Olynyk scored a game-high 20 points, led the Celtics in rebounds with eight and also contributed four steals.
It was clear to anyone who was watching this performance that Olynyk is a cut above nearly all of the other summer league players. He’s a legit NBA player, and he looked the part during this game.
As Celtics summer league head coach Jay Larranaga said, “Kelly did a lot of the same things we’ve seen him do during the season in the NBA.” In saying that, Larranaga was alluding to Olynyk’s shooting touch, basketball IQ and unselfishness.
Those three characteristics were on full display on Saturday. Olynyk scored efficiently from all over the court while making eight of his 17 shot attempts. In the process, he played with ease, comfort and pace.
Many would wonder why an NBA Rising Star who dominated this league a year ago would come back for another round. To Olynyk, it wasn’t even a question. This is a win-win situation for him.
“You need experience to get better,” he said after Saturday’s win. “That’s why veterans are so good in this league, because they’ve been through it so many times.”
Come next Friday, Olynyk will have already been through two summer leagues and one full NBA season. He’s getting as much experience as possible early on in his career and is hoping that will springboard him toward great sophomore season.
Smart, meanwhile, has barely dipped his toes in the NBA waters. He’s only nine days removed from being drafted and Saturday marked his first game as a pro.
That of experience, however, didn’t prevent Smart from making a major impact on Saturday’s game. He was an absolute menace on defense and contributed across the board to a higher degree than Olynyk.
The greatest contribution Smart made was at the defensive end of the court. Miami’s players couldn’t handle his pressure, which led to an impressive five steals. Olynyk said that Smart wreaked “havoc” on defense, a trait the guard claims has been instilled in his DNA over time.
“I was born and raised playing defense,” said Smart. “Every team I played with was a defensive-minded team first before offense, so it was always defense.”
It was mostly defense for Smart on Saturday, but he did more than harass Miami’s players at that end of the court. He also chipped in 10 points, grabbed five boards, dished out three assists and blocked a shot, all while committing just one turnover.
Smart struggled from the field, particularly in the first half, but he didn’t let that affect the rest of his game. He continued to compete at a high level and used the free-throw line to open up his offense in the second half.
He scored Boston’s first points of the second-half with two free throws at the 9:24 mark. Those points doubled as Smart’s first of the morning, and he dropped in two more freebies at the 7:36 mark. From that point on, he had it going on offense.
“It’s a mental thing,” Smart said. “You see a couple of shots going in from the free-throw line and you start to feel it, and then you start to make shots from the field.”
Smart finished the game having attempted a team-high eight free throws, six of which fell through the basket. He also canned a pair of smooth pull-up jumpers during the second half. Smart may not have led the game in scoring, but who cares? He made a major impact on nearly every level and was a game-changer on defense.
After all, he doesn’t need to drop 20 a game this week. Olynyk seems to have that job all taken care of.
We’re only one game into the week, but from all accounts, this was a wildly successful opener. Boston’s lottery pick from 2013 looked miles ahead of everyone else on the court, and its lottery pick from this year looked like a defensive wizard who can impact every facet of the game.
Oh, and don’t forget, the Celtics beat the Heat.
How could you not be smiling after all of that?