Rookie Kelly Olynyk already had a bit of pep in his step after his offensive exploits helped the Boston Celtics rally from a 15-point deficit, and it was a one-possession game when Dirk Nowitzki caught the ball on the right wing late in the third quarter on Monday night. Olynyk put himself in Nowitzki's pocket and forced him to give up the ball without a dribble, but Nowitzki would get it back soon after and drive. Olynyk shuffled over, established position, and absorbed a shoulder to the chest from Nowitzki while drawing the charge call.
Kelly Olynyk draws a charge against Dirk Nowitzki.It's plays like that that spotlight Olynyk's recent development. The 22-year-old big man finished a team-best plus-15 in plus/minus during Monday's 94-89 loss in Dallas. Olynyk scored 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting with nine rebounds, an assist and a steal over 27:13. But it was his defense, including against Nowitzki -- one of his childhood faves -- that deserved the spotlight.
Olynyk allowed only three points on eight defended possessions on Monday night, according to individual defensive data logged by Synergy Sports. He drifted a little too far from Nowitzki off a high pick-and-roll in the fourth quarter and paid the price with a key 3-pointer with 1:33 to go. But Olynyk was otherwise solid and confirmed what the eye test tells us lately.
Olynyk isn't just settling in on the offensive end, he's slowly getting more comfortable on the defensive side as well.
According to Synergy data, Olynyk is allowing a mere 0.615 points per play over his last three games and opponents are shooting just 22.7 percent against him. That's a spectacular number considering Olynyk is allowing 0.879 points per play this season, ranking in the 47th percentile among all league players. Olynyk routinely has topped the "silver linings" category of recent losses as he makes strides at both ends of the floor during his rookie campaign.
We already told you last week how Olynyk's offensive game has blossomed, particularly over the past month. His strides are even more evident in recent games. Let's leave it at this: In the last three contests, Boston owns an offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) of 108.2 in Olynyk's 72 minutes of floor time, which is 13.3 points higher than the team average overall. What's more, the Celtics were 2.2 points better than their average defensively when Olynyk was on the court in those games.
It seems appropriate that Olynyk played one of his better games against Dallas, the team that drafted him. Oh sure, the Mavericks made the pick for Boston after the Celtics moved up three spots to take him, but Olynyk will have a bit of Dallas attached to him.
Which is fitting, because it looked like he was trying to put on Nowitzki's jersey with his defense late in the third quarter. Olynyk looks really comfortable on the floor lately, an encouraging sign late in his rookie campaign. He's shooting with confidence -- which everyone knew would come eventually -- but it's his activity on the glass and his defensive progress that are most noteworthy at this point.
A couple of other thoughts after Monday's loss in Dallas:
• Jerryd Bayless scored 12 of his team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter while aiding the comeback attempt. Bayless made 4-of-7 shots in the span, including a pair of 3-pointers. Even after shifting to point guard in the absence of Rajon Rondo, Bayless again showed he can put up points in a hurry.
• One night after going for 39 points against New Orleans, Jeff Green finished 2-of-12 shooting with nine rebounds, four assists and a steal. Green also had a team-high six turnovers.