Kelly Olynyk, who played a major role in several program milestones during his career at Gonzaga, is shooting for the NBA’s biggest prize: a championship ring.
Olynyk joined select company when the Miami Heat defeated Boston to advance to the Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. He’s the fifth Zag to reach the Finals, joining John Stockton, Ronny Turiaf, Adam Morrison and Austin Daye.
The Lakers are heavy favorites, but Miami has been on a roll in the playoffs with a 12-3 record. The fifth-seeded Heat swept No. 4 Indiana, thumped top-seeded Milwaukee 4-1 and downed No. 3 Boston 4-2. Miami is the highest seed to make the Finals since No. 6 Houston captured the 1996 title.
The 7-foot Olynyk has been a key reserve for most of his third season with the Heat. He averaged double-digit minutes in his first 11 playoff games but saw his playing time reduced in the last three games against Boston as coach Erik Spoelstra went with a tighter rotation.
Olynyk took a rare midcareer redshirt season at Gonzaga and came back as one of the top players in college basketball. He earned All-America honors in 2013, helping the Zags reach the 30-win plateau for the first time in school history.
Gonzaga also climbed to No. 1 in the polls and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, both program firsts. The Zags were upset by Wichita State in the round-of-32.
Olynyk is averaging 8.2 points and 4.6 rebounds this season with three double-digit scoring games in the playoffs. He’s had a pair of 26-point playoff efforts, one in a memorable Game 7 win over Washington in 2017 and another in a 2018 loss to Philadelphia.
Olynyk is trying to become the fourth Zag with an NBA championship ring. Adam Morrison was with the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2009 and 2010 title teams. Turiaf played for Miami’s 2012 championship squad and Daye was a member of 2014 champion San Antonio Spurs.
Morrison, traded from Charlotte to Los Angeles in February 2009, didn’t play or was inactive during the 2009 playoffs. He played in two games in a first-round series win over Oklahoma City in 2010.
Turiaf played in a pair of Finals. After starting 21 regular-season games for Los Angeles in 2008, Turiaf saw extended minutes throughout the playoffs, which ended with the Lakers falling to Boston in six games.
Miami acquired Turiaf in March 2012, after Heat superstars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade had reached out to the former Zag. Turiaf played 3 minutes in the fifth game as Miami handled Oklahoma City 4-1 in the Finals. He saw quite a bit of playing against Boston in the Eastern Conference finals and versus Indiana in the Eastern semifinals.
San Antonio sent Nando de Colo to Toronto for Daye in February 2014. Daye averaged 4.1 points and 1.4 boards in 14 games with the Spurs. He appeared in one game in the opening round, but was inactive for the remainder of the playoffs. San Antonio, led by Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, beat James and the Heat 4-1.
Stockton helped Utah reach back-to-back Finals in 1997 and 1998. Chicago, led by Michael Jordan, edged the Jazz in six games both years. Nine of the 12 games were decided by five points or less.
Stockton hit a game-winning and series-clinching 3-pointer against Houston in the 1997 Western Conference Finals. The Hall of Fame point guard scored in double figures in 19 of 20 playoff games and had a trio of 12-assist games in the Finals. Stockton scored 24 points in a Game 1 win and had 12 assists in a Game 5 victory in the 1998 Finals.
Spoelstra was a 1,000-point career scorer while playing point guard from 1988-92 for Portland in the West Coast Conference. He joined the Heat as video coordinator in 1995 and worked his way up to head coach in 2008.
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