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Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk found the answer in fourth quarter

Kelly Olynyk drives to the hoop with Pistons forward Josh Smith draped all over him in the second half Wednesday night.Elise Amendola/Associated Press

As Kelly Olynyk faced a throng of reporters in the Celtics’ locker room following Wednesday night’s 109-102 overtime victory against the Detroit Pistons at TD Garden, Jared Sullinger joined in the inquisition.

Sullinger grabbed a microphone from a reporter, sidled up to Olynyk, and asked him what exactly got him going when he scored 7 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter.

Inquiring minds, after all, wanted to know.

“The first quarter I got a few swing-swings from Jared Sullinger and it gave me some confidence there to knock down a couple of shots,’’ said Olynyk, who doubled his season scoring average (10.2 points per game) by finishing one shy of his season high, second on the team only to Jeff Green’s game-high 32 points.


It was the first time Olynyk scored in double figures since his 18-point effort (on 6-for-12 shooting) in a 117-100 loss at Memphis Nov. 21, the first setback in the five-game losing streak Boston snapped against the Pistons.

“He was looking for me to get my confidence up,’’ Olynyk said of Sullinger, answering the question posed by Sullinger.

Olynyk’s confidence seemed to wane in the four losses that followed the setback at Memphis.

During that skid, the 7-foot second-year forward out of Gonzaga managed just 11 combined points on 3-for-21 shooting from the field, 1 of 6 from the arc, and 4 of 4 from the foul line. He also had 18 rebounds and 11 assists, tying his career high with seven in a loss at Atlanta.

“I mean, Kelly hasn’t been shooting the ball well,’’ said Sullinger (14 points), who opened OT with a huge trey and followed with another to give the Celtics a 99-92 lead with 1:59 left. “But every shot he takes, I have confidence that he can make it.


“Like I said, he got a couple of easy layups and with him getting a couple of easy layups, it kind of got the ball rolling for him and he played great tonight.’’

Although Olynyk got off to an uneven start, coming off the bench for Tyler Zeller to do battle with Detroit’s strongman Andre Drummond (27 points, 14 rebounds) and Josh Smith (12 points, 11 rebounds), it wasn’t until the second quarter that Olynyk gained some traction in the post.

By halftime, Olynyk chipped in 5 points, which included a 3-point burial, and had three rebounds as the Celtics trailed, 43-42. He wound up hitting 8 of 13 overall, 2 of 4 from the arc, and 2 of 5 from the line.

“I told him while we were standing on the court with .4 seconds left, I thought the first stint wasn’t as good,’’ said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “And then after that I thought he really responded.’’

Particularly in the fourth quarter, when he picked up his play on both ends of the floor in a spirited 6:27 of game time, converting on 3 of 4 field goal attempts, none bigger than the trifecta he made to give the Celtics a 71-61 lead with 8:59 left in regulation.

“You know, anytime [Rajon] Rondo passes you the ball, you should probably shoot it,’’ Olynyk said.

He also grabbed 3 of his 7 rebounds to go along with 3 blocked shots, 2 assists, and a pair of steals.

And, oh yes, Olynyk also was responsible for inducing Smith to foul out with 6:47 left.


“You know, we put him on Drummond quite a bit,’’ Stevens said.

“And he did a great job playing position and then just going back and blocking out and letting other people go and get the ball. But I liked the way he played.’’

The result was a much-needed victory, the end of that five-game losing streak, and a win that was punctuated by Sullinger’s penetrating question for Olynyk during a jocular postgame interview.

Michael Vega can be reached at