With a chance to close out the Wizards in Game 6, the Celtics got little help from their bench. The group only mustered 5 points total and Washington stayed alive. But the young trio of Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart, and Jaylen Brown rose to the occasion in Game 7. Boston’s bench dominated the game, outscoring Washington’s bench 45-5.
How can you not start with Kelly Olynyk? He was unlikely hero of Game 7. Olynyk dropped 26 points, including 14 in the 4th quarter. The Wizards focused heavily on Isaiah Thomas and Olynyk made them pay for it. Every jump shot he knocked down was wide open.
There was more to his performance than open shots though. Olynyk has always been a solid—if not deceptive—driver. He found early success using his quickness to beat Ian Mahinmi off the dribble. But the Celtics also used some misdirection to create opportunities for him. This looks like the standard dribble handoff that Boston often runs.
But Olynyk keeps the ball after the defense keys in on IT and drives to the rim for a layup.
Marcus Smart didn’t put up the scoring numbers that Olynyk did, but he was fantastic. All season we’ve talked about him making “winning plays” that swing games, plays like hustling for a chase down block, ripping away a contested rebound in a crowd, or anything else a junkyard dog would do. As Kevin O’Connor detailed, Smart did all the little things in Game 7. He even included a few classic “no-no-YES!” three-pointers for good measure.
Jaylen Brown has seen his playing time fluctuate in the playoffs. But his athleticism was a huge asset for Boston in game 7. This sequence shows how much he can influence the game.
The great defensive play to force a turnover, followed by the incredible alley-oop finish provided a huge spark to bring the Celtics back into the game.
Finally, Terry Rozier’s brief appearance was pretty nice. He only played 4 minutes in the game, but he made the most of them with his awesome steal/assist. That’s more than his nemesis Brandon Jennings can say for himself.
Brad Stevens trusting his bench is important for another reason: resting the starters. Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Al Horford were able to conserve their energy by getting rest during this series. Because of how bad Washington’s bench was, Scott Brooks didn’t give John Wall and Bradley Beal much of a break at all.
Wall and Beal finished with the most minutes played through the first 2 rounds of the playoffs and they played 44 and 46 respectively in Game 7. It’s fair to say that this workload took its toll on Washington’s back court in Game 7. Bradley Beal was noticeably gassed down the stretch, and John Wall finished 0 for his last 11 shots.
The Celtics were counting on this happening, too. In his post game presser, Marcus Smart said “[Wall’s] legs were just gone. That's what we just kept telling our guys, our coaching staff kept telling us, 'Just keep playing.’”
It’s got to be frustrating for the Wizards. Their starting lineup actually crushed the Celtics, posting a +19 net rating for the series, but Game 7’s are all about winning at the margins and the Celtics bench came through when it mattered most.