PHILADELPHIA — Brad Stevens kept his starting lineup intact for Wednesday’s 101-90 victory over the Sixers, and that included center Kelly Olynyk, who went scoreless in Monday’s loss to Phoenix, playing 13 listless minutes.
It wasn’t a resounding comeback against the 76ers, but Olynyk was encouraged. He finished with 9 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds in 25 minutes despite foul trouble and a cut under his left eye.
Olynyk had posted five consecutive double-digit scoring games before Monday, when he appeared a step slow and lethargic defensively. Stevens replaced him with Tyler Zeller, who scored a season-high 19 points.
Olynyk capitalized on his opportunity to remain in the starting lineup, although it wasn’t a flawless performance.
“You’re going to have nights like that, it didn’t go well,” Olynyk said. “I missed a couple of shots. I didn’t get a couple of opportunities. But the game of basketball is going to be up and down, you’ve got to move on to the next play.”
Stevens attempted to give Olynyk a second chance in the second half Monday, but he was beaten repeatedly on defense by Markieff Morris and was finally pulled for good, save a 10-second stretch in the final minute.
“You talk to him about why it was a tough game,” Stevens said before Wednesday’s game. “And then I think it’s more about play the next one well, get up off the mat. Nobody through our first [nine] games hasn’t had one tough one.’’
The question for Stevens is when to allow a younger player to fight through a poor game and when to remove him. Zeller made the decision easier.
“Some of it depends on who’s playing behind him,” Stevens said. “Tyler Zeller then comes in and has his best game of the early season, at that point, the rope is a lot shorter, right? You just have to be cognizant of what’s going on around you.”
Olynyk said he was determined to bounce back.
“You want to be [resilient],” he said. “If you miss a shot, you’ve got to want to shoot the next one. Like the team, you can’t let one bad loss trickle to three or four. I definitely felt a little bit better. I tried to play inside the system and make good things happen.”
Gerald Wallace has become the voice of reason since coming to the Celtics before last season and he hasn’t hesitated in criticizing his teammates for lackadaisical play.
Boston’s recent stretch of fourth-quarter losses has not prompted a Wallace outburst. He’s been more encouraging. The Celtics entered Wednesday’s game against the winless 76ers with four losses by 5 points or fewer.
“You’ve got to take every experience from every game and right now I think our biggest problem is starting out second halves and closing out fourth quarters,” Wallace said. “Us being so young, it being so early in the season, we’ve got a great opportunity to learn from that and get an understanding from that. We’ve made some mistakes but it’s better to have them now than have them later in the season.”
Wallace and Rajon Rondo have said they will encourage their younger teammates to improve fourth-quarter decisions and avoid being disheartened by difficult losses.
“I think the schedule pretty much does that for us because the games come quick,” Wallace said.
Wallace said there have been signs of optimism.
“I think we played the second half better [in Monday’s loss to Phoenix],’’ he said. “It came down to closing the game and key possession and we didn’t make the key plays that we needed and it’s going to come with time.’’
After some tough years with the 76ers, first-year Celtic Evan Turner said he has appreciated the support from the Boston faithful despite the team’s difficult start.
During his time in Philadelphia, the second pick in 2011 was blamed for not helping resurrect the franchise, which led to his trade to the Pacers.
“When you look up and you’re under .500 and you see a lot of butts in the stands, it’s super cool,” he said. “I think the fan base is pretty good [in Philadelphia] but you have to really give them a reason to come out. We would always joke the Sixers were like the fourth-most favorite team [in Philadelphia] or maybe fifth behind the soccer team.”
Smart closing in
Marcus Smart made the trip and took some shots during the shootaround. Stevens said Smart could be back for Sunday’s game against the Trail Blazers, but the Celtics are likely to only practice once (Thursday) before that game.
The Celtics enjoy a four-day break following Sunday’s game, meaning the likelihood is that Smart returns Nov. 28 against the Bulls.
“I think there’s the potential he could be back as early as early next week,” Stevens said.
Philadelphia coach Brett Brown inserted local products Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel back into the starting lineup. Carter-Williams, the Hamilton, Mass., native, returned last week from offseason shoulder surgery and came off the bench for three games, averaging 29 minutes. He finished with 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists in 33 minutes. Everett, Mass., native Noel, playing in his ninth game, finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.