CELTICS SLAY WIZARDS

Bos­ton’s Olynyk shines to help clinch East­ern Con­fer­ence semi-fi­nal se­ries

New Straits Times - - Sport -

KELLY Olynyk scored 26 points from the bench as the Bos­ton Celtics out­mus­cled the Wash­ing­ton Wizards 115-105 to clinch their East­ern Con­fer­ence semi-fi­nal se­ries on Monday.

Olynyk pro­duced a su­perb dis­play of shoot­ing from dis­tance as Bos­ton pulled clear of the Wizards in the late stages of the game to take the se­ries 4-3 and set up a Con­fer­ence fi­nal clash with Cleve­land.

Isa­iah Thomas top­scored for the Celtics with 29 points and weighed in with 12 as­sists while Al Hor­ford (15), Jae Crow­der (14) and Marcus Smart (13) also made dou­ble figures.

But it was Olynyk’s re­mark­able dis­play off the bench that proved de­ci­sive as the Celtics clinched their first East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nals berth since 2012.

Olynyk had en­tered the game av­er­ag­ing only 8.3 points per game in the play­offs but de­liv­ered a ca­reer-high play­off per­for­mance when it mat­tered.

“A friend called me and said ‘Be at your best when your best is needed’ and my best was needed tonight,” Olynyk said af­ter the win.

“Ev­ery­body gave it their best and it turned out for us tonight,” added the 26year-old Cana­dian power for­ward.

Olynyk de­scribed the se­ries win as a “a team ef­fort.”

“It was hard work, that was a tough seven-game se­ries. Both teams played tough — we just kind of out­lasted them at the end there. We’re lucky to move on,” Olynyk said.

Bos­ton, who had the top seed go­ing into the post­sea­son, now host NBA cham­pi­ons Cleve­land, the sec­ond seeds, to­day.

Cleve­land — who have not dropped a game in the play­offs — got the better of Bos­ton over the course of the reg­u­lar sea­son, win­ning 3-1 over four games.

But Olynyk be­lieves Bos­ton will have more than a fight­ing chance of be­ing com­pet­i­tive against the Cava­liers.

“We’ve just gotta keep play­ing our brand of bas­ket­ball and we’ll see what hap­pens,” Olynyk said.

The de­feat marked an­other frus­trat­ing end for Wash­ing­ton.

Bradley Beal ex­ploded for 38 points but it was not enough to over­come the Celtics rugged de­fence. Otto Porter Jr added 20 points while John Wall and Marki­eff Mor­ris scored 18 each.

No other Wash­ing­ton player made dou­ble figures, high­light­ing the team’s thread­bare rel­a­tive lack of op­tions off the bench. Wall mean­while made only one of eight at­tempted three-point­ers.

The de­ci­sive pas­sage of play came in the third quar­ter when the Celtics trailed by five points with 5:39 left in the pe­riod.

Yet Bos­ton ral­lied bril­liantly to outscore Wash­ing­ton by 21-9 over the rest of the quar­ter to build a lead they would never re­lin­quish.

Thomas hit two superlative three-point­ers while Marcus Smart added an­other in a 1:13 spell that put the Celtics up for good.

A fur­ther 9-2 run at the start of the fourth main­tained Bos­ton’s cush­ion and although Beal was able to keep Wash­ing­ton in touch, Olynyk’s in­spired dis­play proved the dif­fer­ence.

The Cana­dian drained all five of his open­ing shots at the start of the fourth quar­ter and also added five re­bounds and four as­sists be­fore ex­it­ing the court to a rau­cous ova­tion from the home crowd.

RE­SULT — 2nd Rd Play-offs: Bos­ton 115 Wash­ing­ton 105 (Bos­ton win best-of-seven se­ries 4-3). AFP

AFP PIC

Wizards’ Ian Mahinmi (left) blocks a shot by Celtics’ Al Hor­ford dur­ing their game in Bos­ton on Monday.

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