With the repeated caveat that it was just one preseason game, one of the biggest positives that I took away from game one was how good Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk looked on the court. In particular how well they played together. I wasn't the only one impressed.
"I don’t have a plus/minus report right now, so I don’t know," said coach Brad Stevens after his first game on the Celtics sidelines, a 97-89 loss to the Raptors, "but I thought they played pretty well together." When Stevens took a look at that report and watched film later Monday night — his self-imposed requirement before sleeping — he discovered this: Olynyk and Sullinger owned a plus-7 rating, combining for 10 points (4-8 FG), four assists and three rebounds in their 8:29 on the floor together. Of the nine Celtics field goals in those 509 seconds, the rookie and the sophomore either scored or assisted on seven of them.
Sullinger looks like the high IQ banger that we knew and loved last year. After warning us that he was out of shape, he looked A-OK to me. Olynyk is picking up right where he left off in Summer League (which means he's averaging 3.2 Dirk comparisons per game).
On reason for their success is how Brad Stevens used them in offensive sets.
The C's also utilized the "Hi-Lo" offensive set, which is one reason why Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk totaled nine assists. "Hi-Lo" is often used with smaller lineups or when big men have passing abilities, so that suits the abilities of Olynyk, Sullinger, and Gerald Wallace, who had four assists himself. Each big is able to come to the top of the key off of movement, allowing them the freedom to either shoot or pass the ball. Both Sully and Olynyk made some great plays, passing the ball over the top of the defense to cutting players underneath the rim. This set also utilizes a lot of screens on and off the ball, opening up pick-and-pop or rolls for perimeter players.
I was particularly impressed with Olynyk's passing ability. Not just on the assists, there were several passes that were threaded through defenders and right on the money but the resulting play didn't turn into a basket for one reason or another. He was, after all, a point guard in high school according to the great Mike Gorman. Apparently he was around 6'1" until the 11th grade where he grew to seven feet in a year. (His parents must have had a hard time buying clothes for him)
It seems pretty clear that we're going to be seeing a lot more of that pair this year. Probably in the starting lineup before too long.