Basketball

Olynyk leads Celtics into Conference Finals

Kelly Olynyk scored 26 points from the bench as the Boston Celtics outmuscled the Washington Wizards 115-105 to clinch their Eastern Conference semi-final series in New York yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Olynyk produced a superb display of shooting from distance as Boston pulled clear of the Wizards in the late stages of the game to take the series 4-3 and set up a Conference Finals clash with LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers.

Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 29 points and weighed in with 12 assists while Al Horford (15), Jae Crowder (14) and Marcus Smart (13) also made double figures.

But it was Olynyk's remarkable display off the bench that proved decisive as the Celtics clinched their first Eastern Conference Finals berth since 2012.

Olynyk had entered the game averaging only 8.3 points per game in the play-offs but delivered a career-high play-off performance when it mattered.

"A friend called me and said, 'Be at your best when your best is needed', and my best was needed tonight," Olynyk said.

"Everybody gave it their best and it turned out for us tonight," added the 26-year-old Canadian power forward.

Boston, who had the top seeding going into the post-season, now host NBA champions Cleveland, the second seeds, in Game One tomorrow morning.

Cleveland, who have not dropped a game in the playoffs, got the better of Boston over the course of the regular season, winning 3-1 over four games.

But Olynyk believes Boston will have more than a fighting chance of being competitive against the Cavaliers.

"We've just got to keep playing our brand of basketball and we'll see what happens," Olynyk said.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said his team faced a daunting challenge, stating the Cavaliers have raised their game in the post-season.

"We played them four times. I think they're better than any of the four times they played us," Stevens said. - AFP