Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk struggle to see the floor in Game 3
Zero points, zero rebounds, one assist, one turnover in three minutes played. That was Kelly Olynyk's line in Game 3. The same guy the Boston Celtics moved up in the 2013 NBA draft to get at number thirteen overall.
Eight points, two rebounds, one assist, one turnover in seventeen minutes played. This was starting point guard Marcus Smart's line in Game 3. Number six overall pick, face and future of the organization, yet he didn't start the second half and remained on the sidelines for most of the game despite having only two fouls.
So what gives here? We've got one of the smartest coaches in the NBA, yet our top 20 draft picks are struggling so badly they're being benched. Olynyk had looked a bit slow in Games 1 and 2, but he didn't look to be hurt(other than the eye), and was one of the few with a positive +/- heading into Game 3. I actually thought he was one of the Celtics best players in Game 1.
But Jared Sullinger, Jonas Jerebko and Gigi Datome all played ahead of Kelly Olynyk for Brad Stevens' gameplan against the Cavs Thursday night. Strange call if you ask me. We knew there'd be lineup changes, I'm just not sure they were the right ones.
The player whose playing suffered the most with Stevens' lineup changes is Kelly Olynyk. Played just 2:41. #celtics
As for the Smart benching in the second half, I totally get that. Every Celtics fan wants Smart to come out and lead the run that finally gives the Celtics a win over the Cavaliers in this series, we're all rooting for him, but very few of us are confident in him. Not yet anyways.
He just hasn't played very well in this series. He's shown he's a rookie by jacking up bad shots with plenty of time on the shot clock and at times being over-aggressive on defense. He's lucky he didn't get another low-blow call like the one he had on Matt Bonner in the picture below. He's got to calm his nerves down and play controlled basketball, but that's a lot to ask of a 21 year old who is playing a position he isn't exactly a natural at.
Smart's claim to fame this year has obviously been his staggering defense, but even that has been missing a bit against the Cavs. He is averaging a -14 +/- for the series so far. The only point guard with a worse +/- average in the league? Rajon Rondo has a -17.5 for the Dallas Mavericks. I guess that's the silver lining.
Seeing Smart get benched to start Game 4 would surprise me, but I think it may have been the right call for Stevens to get Bradley and Thomas some more looks and leave them in during Thursday night's game. The problem was A.B. & Thomas were both throwing up brick after brick. It was not a good night for the Celtics back court.
#Cavs have held Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley, the C's two top scorers in the reg season, to 5-of-18 shooting in 1st half. That'll work.
Expect to see Smart back in his starting role in Game 4. Benching him now, one game away from elimination, wouldn't make much sense. Might as well get him the experience now. It's no guarantee the Celtics will be back in the playoffs next season(though I think they will be).
Definitely too early to get up in arms about Smart's shortcomings, but it is extremely odd to see Olynyk only play 3 minutes in a playoff game, two years into his career with the Celtics. Definitely a disappointment. Did he hurt something in Game 2 that we don't know about? Has Stevens finally just decided he sucks? Was it just the game plan? Does the swollen eye have anything to do with it? Is he just too soft to handle fellow Canadian Tristan Thompson?
Let's hope they both come out and right the ship tomorrow afternoon when the C's face elimination at 1 PM EST. The Celtics will need solid production from everyone in the rotation to keep the Cavs from reaching round 2. Boston is currently the 7-point underdog.
NBA Game 4 openers (Pinnacle)
Bulls -4 at Bucks
Cavs -7 at Celtics
Warriors -6 at Pelicans
Expect to see Olynyk return to his 20-25 minutes played, the Celtics need his offense badly with the back court struggling. But if he can't stay on his man and avoid foul trouble, he may find himself right where he did in Game 3. Backs are against the wall now, we'll see who really wants it, and who isn't made for this. This is make or break time for Kelly Olynyk.
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Smart photo - David Butler II USA TODAY
Olynyk photo - Elise Amendola AP