Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk, who had missed the last two playoff games against the Hawks with a sore right shoulder, was activated for Game 4 on Sunday. Coach Brad Stevens was unsure how much he would use Olynyk, considering he had not played or practiced since aggravating his shoulder injury during Game 1, but the 7-footer’s return improved the team’s depth and added much-needed perimeter shooting.
Olynyk wore protective tape on his shoulder for extra support during Sunday’s game, and he said his range of motion improved noticeably over the past few days.
“It’s definitely feeling a lot better,” Olynyk said before the Celtics’ 104-95 win in overtime. “Not as much pain. More movement. You never know until you’re really out there. But it’s at a point where you’re able to at least give it a try.”
Olynyk, who played four minutes and grabbed a pair of rebounds, said the shoulder still fatigues quickly, so in recent days he has tried to balance regaining strength with rest and recovery. He said he expects to experience some pain for the rest of these playoffs.
He has yet to talk to the Celtics’ medical staff about the possibility of offseason surgery.
“We have a great medical team here, so we’ll see what they think,” Olynyk said. “I’m not sure what the plan is right now. Just trying to strengthen it as much as I can and get everything tight and ready to go.”
The Celtics stuck with the starting lineup that was so successful in Game 3, with Jonas Jerebko and Evan Turner joining regular starters Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and Amir Johnson.
During the regular season, Olynyk joined Jerebko and Turner in Boston’s dangerous second unit.
“Obviously, we’ve had to play small quite a bit in this series to be effective,” Stevens said.
Stevens said shooting guard Avery Bradley, meanwhile, has made “pretty consistent improvement” since suffering a strained quadriceps in Game 1, but added that it remains extremely unlikely that Bradley will return during this series.
After Thomas swiped Dennis Schroder in the face in the first quarter of Game 3, the Hawks believed that Thomas deserved a suspension. On Saturday, the NBA retroactively issued a flagrant-1 foul on Thomas but did not suspend him.
“The NBA always does a thorough job,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said Sunday. “Their job is not easy and they cannot make everybody happy, and we also have a ton of respect for their process, their work, and their integrity. We can all see things differently, and we’re ready to move forward.”
In Game 3, the teams were called for four flagrant fouls and two technicals, as the physical play escalated. On Sunday, Schroder — who was booed lustily whenever he touched the ball — received a technical foul for pushing Crowder in the final second of the first half after Crowder fell over him. But the game was otherwise played without incident.
“We talk all the time about not wanting to cross that line,” Stevens said. “And at the same time it’s going to be physical and competitive because you watch every playoff series, that’s what they are. You’re playing a team for the fifth time in two weeks. They’re used to us; we’re used to them. It’s prideful people on both sides of the floor, really good players. There’s going to be some of that. But obviously you don’t want it to cross the line.”
Show of support
Sunday’s game was well-attended by members of the Patriots organization. The crowd included team owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick, tight end Rob Gronkowski, cornerback Malcolm Butler, and running back LeGarrette Blount. They were shown on the arena’s Jumbotron several times to the delight of the sellout crowd. Thomas said the crowd gave the team a lift, and he noticed the Patriots, too. “They give us that energy,” Thomas said. “They’re loud from the jump, and we got the Patriots in here. There’s no way we should be able to lose those games . . . The starting time of Game 5 in Atlanta hinged on the outcome of Sunday’s late game between the Cavaliers and Pistons. With Cleveland completing the sweep, the Celtics and Hawks will play at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.