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The Read & React: Kelly Olynyk revenge game

Most Celtics fans lamented the losses of Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, and Jae Crowder from last year’s #1 seed, but Kelly Olynyk showed that what Boston really needs is another unicorn.

NBA: Miami Heat at Boston Celtics Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Sy: Before last night’s game, the Celtics recognized Kelly Olynyk with the Heroes Among Us award for his efforts in the Boston community during his four-year stint with the team.

After the game, he was asked what the city of Boston meant to him. He replied, “it’s home.” In his triumphant return, KO racked up a career-high 32 points on 12-for-15 shooting and showed just how much his versatility is missed on the floor as well.

Like Horford, Olynyk is one of those unicorn big men that the league craves in the modern NBA: a seven footer that can shoot from the perimeter, put the ball on the floor and attack close outs, and make reads off of doubles and rotating defenses. Before the season started, I wrote about how Marcus Morris needed to become the versatile playmaker behind Al Horford.

My hope is that he can fill in as Kelly Olynyk’s replacement. When the Celtics go small with one in and four out, that big inside has to do a lot of different things and Olynyk was the best Horford substitute when Al wasn’t on the floor. He could stretch the floor, pass from the high post, drive, and kick. Think of that big as the spoke of a wheel; while ball handlers and wings and whipping around them, they have to be able to work in close quarters around the key.

Morris’ bench scoring was certainly missed tonight, but he doesn’t provide the same shiftiness and unpredictability that Olynyk brings to the table. The Celtics defense was a mess in the second half—late on switches, not making the proper switch at all, failing to recover on the weak side—and a lot of that was because of Olynyk. Losing Al Horford certainly played a big part of that, but Kelly frustrated his former teammate and his former team.

This is Miami’s first possession of the game and Olynyk is already creating mismatches. Aron Baynes does a good job calling out the coverage, but it’s uncharacteristic for big men to pop out for above-the-break threes so there’s some confusion and KO gets an open look.

If you choose to go small (which Stevens had to do with Al Horford out of the game), he’s deceptively shifty off the dribble and has all the Kevin McHale pump fakes in his repertoire.

This is where he’s just murder. Like Horford, he’s a very cerebral decision maker in the high post and at the top of the key and because he can do everything (maybe not well, but good enough), he’s always a threat.

Another Horford is exactly what this team is missing. Olynyk was that last year. Wing defenders and attack point guards are Boston’s calling cards, but to make this roster really sing, they could use a big man with Olynyk’s talent.

NBA: Miami Heat at Boston Celtics Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Simon Pollock: The third quarter was rough all around for Boston against the Heat, especially on offense. While Kelly Olynyk built himself a new career high, the Celtics shot their worst of any quarter –a forgettable 23.5% on 4/17 shooting as a team. It was their lowest number of field goal attempts of any quarter, even though Marcus Smart started to heat up.

Al Horford's offense was sorely missed, even though Boston managed to turn around their shooting a bit in the fourth quarter going a 9/19. Horford couldn't find the net, grabbing a negligible six points before fouling out with eight minutes to go in the game.

After such a thrilling start, decades of NBA season data strongly suggested that Boston would start to regress. It just isn't much fun to watch when the offense struggles this much.