For the first time in the playoffs, Isaiah Thomas found his stroke from the outside, and that is the worst possible news for the Wizards
Immediately following the Boston Celtics‘ game six series clinching win against the Chicago Bulls, Isaiah Thomas immediately caught a flight to join in family in what must have been one of, if not the most difficult day of his life as he spoke at the funeral of his sister Chyna Thomas.
It was not until four am this morning that Thomas arrived back in Boston, with game one of the Eastern Conference Semi Finals against the Washington Wizards just nine hours away. Emotionally and physically, Thomas has been dealing with the kind of burden that players, fans and coaches cannot even grasp, but the only thing he has to say about it is no excuses can be made in the playoffs.
Thomas has been an inspiration throughout this ordeal, and we now need a new word to describe what he did in game one, giving the Celtics the start they needed against the Wizards. Under impossible circumstances, with one of the toughest defensive guards in the league matchuped on him, Thomas put together his best performance of the playoffs, and the most important of his career.
Thomas was more than masterful in this one. His ability to understand the game around him, and adapt the way he attacks is allowing the Celtics to function at their highest. The Bulls tried to defend Thomas in multiple ways in this game, and every time he had a response.
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Thomas’ nine assists may have been the most important part of his game. With things hanging in the balance during the fourth quarter, the Wizards put all their defensive effort into keeping Thomas out of the paint. He responded by waiting for the Wizards to commit, so that he could find his teammates that were continually open.
Even if that is how Thomas had his biggest impact, the most significant part of his performance is that, for the first time in the playoffs, he found his shot. Thomas finished with more threes than the previous four victories against the Bulls, and he was able to bring the three point spark in order to respond to the 22-3 run that the Wizards started the game with. Once again, when the Celtics were in one of their awful slumps, Thomas shifted focus and took matters into his own hands, and he can do that whenever he wants if his shot is falling.
The Celtics have had a lot of troubles with hitting open shots all season long. Even in these last two games, where the Celtics have shot significantly better, they are still throwing away a lot of points on wide open misses.
All season long, the one player that the Celtics could trust to his every and any open shot was Thomas. For the first six games of the playoffs, Thomas joined the rest of his teammates with an inability to his those consistent shots. The Celtics were able to overcome that against the Bulls largely because the Bulls really are the worst three point shooting team in the league.
Against the Wizards, the Celtics knew they would have to hit more open shots, and it had to start with Thomas. If the Celtics can trust that Thomas will be hitting the shots he is comfortable with, then they can live with some of those other open threes that will inevitably be missed.
Game three was a reminder to the Celtics that Thomas indeed is the best shooter on the court, and that is how it needs to stay in this series. The Celtics have all the confidence they need in their ability to move the ball and gets open looks. The consistency with which the Celtics have created the open looks is the best part of this team, but their overall shooting is too inconsistent to score enough if Thomas is going cold at the same time.
This game was the best example of how many different ways Thomas can kill a team, but he has shown us most of that already in the playoffs. The one thing Thomas did not do against the Bulls was shoot the way he did in game one against the Wizards.
Every time the Wizards thought they might have a way of answering the way Thomas attacks, he made the necessary adjustment to throw them off once again.
This is one of the toughest point guard battles that Thomas will ever face, and a lot of that has to do with John Wall‘s ability to defend Thomas with his speed and strength. The best way for the Wizards to get the point guard advantage is if Wall is able to slow down Thomas’ scoring.
In game one, Thomas imposed his will in a way that should terrify everyone. Thomas has been unarguable for almost this entire season, but he has been left to do things by himself too often. Thomas returned to that unarguable status against the Wizards and that allowed everything to come together as the rest of the team continued to play the right way and get the good looks in a comfortable offense.
Thomas has proven that he is going to have an impact no matter what. Thomas is always going to be the number one focus of any opposing defense, but what he did to the Wizards is something they may not ever be capable of stopping. Thomas clearly won the first battle between the point guards, and that is because of his complete and dynamic impact, combined with holding his own on the defensive end.
As long as Thomas continues to shoot the way he did in game one, Wall will have the toughest task of his career trying to out do Thomas’ impact with the likes of Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart suffocating him with every move he makes.