Celtics bench provides much-needed production in Game 7

Celtics bench provides much-needed production in Game 7

BOSTON –  In Monday’s pivotal Game 7 matchup against Washington, Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens shortened up his bench.

And in doing so, it went a long way in Boston closing out their second-round series with a 115-105 victory over the Washington Wizards which advanced them to the Eastern Conference finals.

Boston, which played three reserves primarily instead of the usual four or five, had plenty of heroic performances on Monday night, led by Kelly Olynyk’s playoff career-high 26 points.


But the Celtics’ entire second unit which for the most part consisted of Olynyk, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown, provided some much-needed production and toughness at both ends of the floor.

“The bench was a big factor in Game Five (at the TD Garden) and Game Seven,” said Boston head coach Brad Stevens. “The home team’s bench seemed to play really well.”

For the game, Boston’s second unit outscored the Wizards backups 48-5.

Boston’s  Olynyk provided a major lift offensively, providing a much-needed complimentary scorer that the Celtics could turn to in helping them emerge with the victory.

“We needed it,” Olynyk said. “That’s a tough team that we played seven tough games against and they can score. We needed to help out the starters, help out Isaiah (Thomas). He’s been putting us in really good positions and the type of attention they were drawing to him, he was getting rid of it and putting us in great positions and we had to make plays. That’s what we tried to do.”

And it wasn’t just scoring, either.

While Marcus Smart stepped up to make a pair of huge three-pointers, it was his work on the boards down the stretch that paid huge dividends for the Celtics.

In addition to his 13 points, he had six rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots.

And then there was the rookie Jaylen Brown, who came into Game 7 having missed 14 of his last 18 shots from the field.

But like Smart, he was still managing to impact the game even when his shot wasn’t falling which is why Stevens continued to dole out minutes to Brown.

However, Brown hit a 3-pointer early in the game, and followed that up with an acrobatic finish at the rim which tied the game at 72-all with 4:55 to play, a basket that capped off a 13-8 Celtics run.

Brown would finish with nine points on 3-for-5 shooting with three rebounds. And a plus/minus of +8.

“I was fired up,” Brown said. “Fired up for the team. Two years ago I was just in high school. It’s an amazing feeling just being here, so I was super excited and I’m glad we pulled it off.”

And while Thomas had a Thomas-like 29 points to lead the Celtics, all the talk afterward centered around Olynyk and the Celtics bench which proved to be the ultimate difference-maker in Game 7.

“Kelly Olynyk came in, I think he gave us 26 off the bench,” recalled Washington’s Marcin Gortat. “It can’t happen. It can’t happen. Their bench was really good (tonight). They outplayed us. Outplayed our starters and our second unit. You can’t win games if you’re going to let them do things like that.”

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Reserve-heavy Celtics keep at it, top Trail Blazers

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Reserve-heavy Celtics keep at it, top Trail Blazers

1:13 - The Celtics came away with a 105-100 win in Portland on Friday night. Find out why Chris Mannix is calling this the best Celtics win of the season.

6:05 - Mannix discusses details about Kyrie Irving’s ‘minimally invasive’ procedure on his knee and what his level of concern is with A. Sherrod Blakely and Gary Tanguay.

10:03 - Michael Holley and Tom Curran discuss what NFL players, including Devin McCourty, are doing beyond the gridiron by being active in criminal justice reform discussions held at Harvard this week.



Morris getting it done for Celtics on both ends of the floor

Morris getting it done for Celtics on both ends of the floor

When you think about Marcus Morris these days, big-time scoring immediately comes to mind. 

But in Boston’s 105-100 comeback win over Portland, Morris’ contributions went beyond the game-high 30 points he dropped on the Blazers.

MORE - Blakely's stars, studs, and duds from Celtics-Trail Blazers

“Coach (Brad Stevens) is doing a great job of getting me the ball in my spots and my teammates are finding me,” Morris told reporters after the win. “And I’m just coming through.”

He’s providing strong play and a tremendous presence at both ends of the floor which has been critical to the team navigating some choppy waters with a number of regular rotation players – namely Kyrie Irving – out with injuries.

“One thing is, he’s healthy,” said Boston’s Al Horford, referring to the sore knee that limited Morris earlier this season and at times forced him to miss games. “And the other is, he’s just more confident, he’s playing very assertive. He’s playing great right now, in a really good rhythm.”

Said Stevens: “That’s been him (Morris). As he’s continued to feel better; I think physically he’s felt as good as he’s felt. He’s comfortable in our system and we need him to score. If you’re a basketball player and your job is to score, that’s a pretty good job.”

And it’s one that even with all the injuries Boston has played through, few envisioned him being such an integral part of the offense. 

Morris’ calling card prior to arriving in Boston was his defense. 

But Morris has made it known that his focus on the floor is to be as complete a player as possible.

“I’m not trying to just limit myself to just being that scorer,” Morris said. “Also, on the defensive end I think I’m bringing it; my defense has gotten a lot better, especially my on-the-ball defense. I’m trying to be that all-around player and not just an offensive player … but I can score.”