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Kelly Olynyk gets back in the groove

Kelly Olynyk puts up a shot over Pacers center Myles Turner during second-half action in Indianapolis. Doug McSchooler/AP

INDIANAPOLIS — There was a world of difference between the Kelly Olynyk who made his season debut Wednesday and scored 2 points, and the one who has dropped a combined 35 on the Knicks and Pacers the past two nights.

The Celtics freely admit they need a productive and engaged Olynyk to become an elite team, and he looked more comfortable and aggressive Friday, canning 6 of 11 shots, including three 3-pointers in Friday’s victory. He also added seven rebounds and three assists. In Saturday’s 105-99 win over the Pacers, he finished with 16 points on 6-for-13 shooting with 6 rebounds and 4 assists.


It was heartening for Olynyk, who has been striving for improved consistency the past few years. There is a large role for him this season, and he said he wants to meet expectations.

“It’s good to get a game under your belt and then come back and have another chance,” he said. “I think we played well as a team. Everyone was involved at both ends of the floor and the way they were guarding it, they left me open a few times and I was able to kind of get rolling there.”

Olynyk played a lot with center Tyler Zeller on the second unit, and the two 7-footers were able to create some havoc defensively in the paint.

“It’s awesome playing with Tyler because he’s always helping you and being in the right position,” Olynyk said. “He gets out and runs the floor in transition, which flattens out the defense and gives me an opportunity to trail in and it’s awesome that way.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been imploring Olynyk to shoot when he’s open because of his perimeter ability. And he experienced some of those “Shoot, Kelly!” moments during his debut against Washington. But Olynyk said he’d rather make the right basketball play instead of chucking 3-pointers just because he’s open. It’s a delicate balance.


“It’s easy for someone to say that who’s sitting in the 18th row or sitting on the bench,” Olynyk said of shooting whenever he’s open. “You’re in the flow of the game. You see things differently. You’re reading the game differently. You want to make different plays, get people involved. It’s a different game but I am definitely looking for my shot aggressively.”

Olynyk, who underwent right shoulder surgery in May, said he feels the shoulder “feels stronger than it ever has.”

Making strides

Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown had 10 points and four rebounds in 18 minutes against the Knicks, perhaps his best game to date. Brown also made an impact defensively. He is becoming more instinctive defensively, and that is not lost on his head coach.

“I thought [Friday his defense was] pretty darned good,” Stevens said. “He certainly had his moments. He’s learning the calls. He’s learning the game. He’s learning how fast it moves. This is a league where you blink you get beat. He’s got to continue to grow, but [his defense] has been better than I expected at this stage.”

Brown has elite athleticism but so do many other NBA players, and he has been getting his shot blocked. But Brown has picked up the ability to continue making basketball plays, which has impressed Stevens.

“You’ve got to make the right play, no matter how athletic you are. There are guys with great length and size that are going to block shots,” Stevens said. “That’s the way this league is. If you have an angle, if you can create an angle and go over somebody, otherwise you have to make the right play for somebody else and he’s trying to do the right things most of the time.


“He’s had a good start, considering age and everything else. We’ve kind of thrown him into the fire, almost unfairly.”

It was one of those nights Saturday for Brown, who did not score in 6 minutes, 55 seconds.

Horford progressing

The good news for the Celtics is that center Al Horford appears close to returning to action after being in the NBA’s concussion protocol. Horford worked out rigorously before the Celtics took on the Pacers, working on resistance drills with strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo.

Horford ran sprints with a restraint around his waist and then participated in footwork drills. After that, he took jumpers with assistant coach Jay Larranaga, looking comfortable with his shooting stroke. Horford told a team official that his condition was similar to how he felt Friday when he began working out.

Stevens said Horford would not have made the two-game trip to Indianapolis and New Orleans if there was no possibility of playing, meaning the big man could return Monday against the Pelicans and standout Anthony Davis.

“We knew [Friday] night that he probably wasn’t going to play,” Stevens said. “[His workout] was pretty similar to [Friday’s]. We’ll see how he feels after [this weekend].”


Jae Crowder, who is recovering from a sprained left ankle, did not make the trip to Indianapolis but could return next weekend when the Celtics take on the Golden State Warriors and Detroit Pistons.

Thomas OK

Isaiah Thomas received X-rays on his middle finger following the game but they were negative and he will continue to play. Thomas said he hurt the finger earlier in practice last week. “Nah, I’m going to play,” he said. “I just have to figure out how to shoot.” . . . A night after the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony was ejected on technical fouls in the second quarter, the Celtics received another break when All-Star and Olympian Paul George was ruled out of Saturday night’s game with a sprained left ankle. George injured the ankle during the Pacers’ overtime loss to the 76ers on Friday night but did play 40 minutes in the game before experiencing discomfort on Saturday.

Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GwashburnGlobe.