Hero Ballers: Isaiah Thomas & Kelly Olynyk

“I knew it would be a big game tonight. I knew it wouldn’t be easy at all. And we came out on top.”—Isaiah Thomas

I.T. & K.O.

What a 1-2 combo!

See that game, Draymond? How you like ‘dem apples?

See that game, Phoenix? See that game, Sacramento? How you like ‘dem apples?

See that game, Boston? Welcome back to NBA Playoffs relevance.

It has been seven years since we last saw you, Titletown, at the NBA Final Four and we cannot have imagined a better Game 7 qualifier to watch than Monday’s home game where your Boston Celtics beat the Washington Wizards, 115-105.

It is a sure-to-be memorable contest highlighted by The Little Guy Isaiah Thomas’ team-high 29 points and game-high 12 assists, along with Seven-Foot Center Kelly Olynyk’s career-playoff-high 26 points on .802 true shooting percentage.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

“That’s a tough team that we played seven tough games against and they can score. We needed to help out the starters. Help out Isaiah.”—Kelly Olynyk

It was a battle of attrition and these Celtics simply never wore down, outscoring the Wizards, 30-26, in the final quarter to extend a six-point, third-quarter lead to a 10-point final margin of victory.

It helped that Coach Brad Stevens was able to rest his All-Star adequately in both halves, limiting Thomas’ game minutes to 40, while Olynyk played 28, in contrast with Wizards guards Bradley Beal (46 minutes) and John Wall (44 minutes), who both already were feeling the long -game season’s drag, already ranking second and fourth in total minutes played this regular season and postseason.

By getting quality minutes—and quality scoring (48 bench points) from his subs, Stevens was able to play whoever he wanted down the final stretch.

And, oh, whoa, late in that third quarter and especially in that entire fourth quarter, the I.T. & K.O. show was something to behold.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Thomas checked back into the game (2:58) about a minute after Washington took a 76-72 lead at the 4:07 mark of the third quarter, while Olynyk came back in (2:33) soon thereafter.

It was then that K.O. witnessed I.T. go on an eight-point in three-minute scoring barrage to close the period in what ultimately would become a 22-5 run that gave Boston its 94-81 lead with 10 minutes to go in the game.

But the best Boston run was still to come, with K.O. about to go off on a spree that soon would become stuff of Celtics Game 7 lore.

With all the attention Thomas was attracting from the Wizards defense, Olynyk continually created offense by getting in the paint, where he would score 14 of his 26 in the restricted area, and he aggressively attacked throughout the whole game, making all eight of his two-point attempts while also nailing two three-pointers and a two-point elbow jumper.

Not bad for a 7-footer.

In the fourth quarter alone, Olynyk scored 14 points, which was his career playoff high entering the game, while Thomas capped his fourth period extending Boston’s lead with 5 more points of his own and 4 assists—3 of those assists going to K.O., who made two treys and one deuce thanks to the I.T. passes.

It was that kind of night.

Big and small. Working together to get the Celtics past Game 7 and into the East Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers starting Wednesday.

I.T. set ’em up; K.O. knocked ’em out.

Isaiah Thomas  40  +10  29 (.581) 6-16  3-5 8-9  2  12/2  1 & 0
Kelly Olynyk  28  +3  26 (.802)  8-8  2-6 4-5  5  4/1  0 & 0


Key: MIN minutes; +/- plus-minus; PTS points; TSP true shooting percentage; 2FG 2-point field goals and attempts; 3FG 3-point field goals and attempts; FT free throws and attempts; REB rebounds; AST/TO assists/turnovers; STL & BLK steals and blocks.