BOSTON – For most of this season, the Boston Celtics have had to overcome some form of adversity.
Players unexpectedly sick at the last minute.
Others injured and held out longer just to make sure they don’t have a recurrence.
Having gone through that so often certainly provides the Celtics with a level of understanding when the unexpected happens, but none of those experiences could adequately prepare this team or franchise for what their star player, Isaiah Thomas, is dealing with now.
- Report: Thomas plans to play in Game 1
- Isaiah Thomas's 22-year-old sister killed in one-car accident
- Report: Thomas 'in state of shock'
- David Ortiz: 'Prayers up . . . all of Boston is behind you!'
This isn’t a painful back or sore finger or any assortment of bumps and bruises Thomas has experienced.
This is far more serious, bigger-than-the-game pain that he’s dealing with following the death of his 22-year-old sister Chyna J. Thomas, who died in a one-car accident on Interstate-5 in Federal Way, Wash.
While all indications at this point are that he will in fact play tonight in Game 1 of the Celtics’ first-round series with Chicago, it will be with a heavy heart.
And there’s no telling how he will play – and that’s assuming he will suit up – in a game that he and his teammates have been eagerly awaiting.
What the Celtics are dealing with now is bigger than the game.
This is family, one of their own, hurting in a way that no one wants to see.
You can expect the Celtics to do what they always seem to do at times like this, which is to rally behind their guy and play with the kind of focus and attention to detail that lets you what and who they are thinking about.
It doesn’t matter if Thomas plays or not. His teammates will see the only way to bring some level of peace to their hurting teammate, is to go out and win tonight.
While that’s no different than their goal before the death of Thomas’ sister, it becomes another motivational factor for a team that’s loaded with them at this point.
Throw in the fact that there are many who believe the Celtics are an extremely vulnerable No. 1 seed, and you have the makings of a team that will play the underdog card -- which has been good for them -- for as long as they can.
But it’s hard to get too caught up in that, especially when you consider they did finish with the best record in the East and there is an increased level of pressure and with that, heightened expectations for this team that have not been present in previous playoff trips.
“It is. A lot more is expected of us,” said Avery Bradley. “We understand a lot more. We want to get further than the first round. I think everyone wants to experience that. There’s only been a few guys that have been blessed with that opportunity. Everybody else on this team is hungry to get on to the second round.”
But there are legitimate challenges awaiting them.
Dealing with Jimmy Butler, one of the best two-way players in the NBA, is going to be tough. He is averaging 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game.
Dwyane Wade hasn’t dominated play like we’ve seen in past years, but Wade has consistently elevated his play in the postseason.
Can he do it again?
And then there’s Nikola Mirotic who has been an integral part of the Bulls since being inserted into the starting lineup.
Can he keep it rolling in the postseason?
These are just some of the many issues the Celtics will contend with in a series that in many ways will continue the season-long narrative of Boston having to find a way to overcome adversity.