Celtics, don’t you dare.
Don’t even think about losing Friday night’s Game 7. Dismiss any thoughts of ending your season and breaking out from the bubble. There is too much to live for. Kelly Olynyk is waiting!
Olynyk is, of course, the former Celtic who now plays for the Miami Heat. The same Miami Heat who are waiting for the winner of the series between the Celtics and Raptors, having already punched their ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Seeing the former C’s first-round pick always brings back the tingles. Sure, this isn’t exactly the anticipation of Tom Brady going up against the Patriots, but Olynyk had his memorable moments in Boston. He showed up in the Hamptons with Brady to help recruit Kevin Durant. He offered serviceable help off Brad Stevens’ bench. And he, of course, had the one game.
May 15, 2017.
It was the second-to-last time the Celtics played a Game 7. It was also Olynyk’s signature moment (one that helped make him a lot of money in free agency a few weeks later). Twenty-six points in 28 minutes. Ten of 14 from the field. A 115-105 win over the Wizards.
Olynyk gave us that night, one where an out-of-nowhere season savior just randomly appears.
He also gave us a reminder about the unpredictability of these Game 7’s.
Other than the reunion with the Heat forward, there are plenty of other reasons to hope this Celtics season continues. For one, unlike some of the organization’s other trips to the Eastern Conference Finals they actually seem like they have a chance to do damage in the NBA Finals.
This Celtics team is also a likable bunch.
There is a satisfaction with being able to claim some of the league’s best young players (Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum), an All-Star veteran most everyone respects and appreciates (Kemba Walker), along with the epitome of grit and guile (Marcus Smart).
They are usually fun to watch and hear from.
But in order for this whole thing keep going the Celtics are going to have to find their Olynyk. Stevens riding with the same five through the final quarter and two overtimes is understandable considering the drop-off his bench play represented. But this has to be different. It was back in those 2017 Eastern Conference Semi-finals, and that’s why the C’s got that chance to play Cleveland.
In that Game 7 Stevens basically went seven-deep. Amir Johnson started but played just nine minutes. Smart got the most minutes off the bench (29), followed by Olynyk. Jaylen Brown chipped in with 19 minutes while Terry Rozier made one brief four-minute appearance.
This time around, the problem is the options for Game 7 stars are only the obvious.
Brad Wanamaker? Maybe. Either of the Williams guys, Robert or Grant? Seems unlikely. A Semi Ojeleye breakout game also would appear to be wishful thinking.
The modern day Olynyk — the guy who we aren’t quite expecting to add to the production from those we are expecting — will almost certainly have to be Smart or Theis. That’s fine. But make no mistake about it, these sort of games need those sort of performances.
In their most recent Game 7 — a 112-96 first-round win over the Bucks in 2018 — Aron Baynes’ eight points and seven rebounds went a long way. As did Marcus Morris’ 10 points. But that was a different team. Stevens had just two players log more than 33 minutes. Do you actually think that is going to happen this time around?
This we know: Someone needs to step up Olynyk-style. There is a certain golden-locked Canadian waiting for a reunion.