Extra attention on Isaiah Thomas puts more pressure on Celtics' supporting cast

Extra attention on Isaiah Thomas puts more pressure on Celtics' supporting cast

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Like most of the Boston Celtics starters, a lot of what Jae Crowder gets to do offensively is a function of how teams play Isaiah Thomas.
If you play Thomas straight-up, he’ll eventually torch you.
Pay him a lot of attention with double and triple teams and Thomas’ teammates like Crowder will be charged with making plays.

Crowder will be among the many Celtics looking to do just that, hoping he can close out this best-of-seven series the way he began: making lots of shots.

In Boston’s 123-111 Game 1 victory, Crowder had a career playoff-high 24 points on 8-for-14 shooting with six rebounds, a steal and a plus/minus of +26. The big takeaway from that performance was how well he made the Wizards pay for leaving him open. According to nba.com, Crowder was 7-for-10 shooting uncontested shots in Game 1.

To put that in perspective, consider this: In Games 2-6, Crowder was just 8-for-27 (29.6 percent) shooting uncontested shots.
As much as the Celtics have benefited from Crowder averaging a career playoff-high 7.0 rebounds per game, his ability to knock down open shots is huge in Boston’s quest to close out this series.
“They just have to be ready,” said Thomas, referring to his fellow Celtics. “I’ve been on all my teammates about being ready to shoot, being ready to put yourself in position to be able to score, make another play for somebody else. I believe in those guys. If they play well, it’s hard for teams to be able to put two and three guys on me because you have to pick your poison.”
Thomas thrashed the Wizards for a career playoff-high 53 points in Game 2, a scoring outburst that was in part aided by the fact that Washington didn’t allow as many good looks for Crowder which in turn meant more unimpeded real estate for Thomas to bob and weave his way through for easy baskets.
And with the Wizards going with a mixture of sorts between straight man coverage and hard, steady double and triple teams of Thomas, Crowder must continue to be ready to make them pay.
Several Celtics will get an opportunity to make plays based off the added attention Thomas gets, including Crowder who seems to be getting a decent amount of spot-up shot opportunities.
In fact, nba.com's stats page shows that he is tied for second among players in the postseason when it comes to spot-up field goal attempts (46), just ahead of teammates Avery Bradley (45) while being tied with fellow Celtic Marcus Smart (46).
Getting those shots to fall will go far in Crowder delivering something similar to what he did in Game 1 and even more important, helping Boston move on to the next round in what has been a grueling, challenging series that’s down to its final game.
Well aware of what’s at stake, don’t look for Crowder to approach this game any differently than previous playoff matchups.
“I’m going to do like I do,” Crowder said. “You just have to be locked into the moment and not let the moment take over.”

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Reserve-heavy Celtics keep at it, top Trail Blazers

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Reserve-heavy Celtics keep at it, top Trail Blazers

1:13 - The Celtics came away with a 105-100 win in Portland on Friday night. Find out why Chris Mannix is calling this the best Celtics win of the season.

6:05 - Mannix discusses details about Kyrie Irving’s ‘minimally invasive’ procedure on his knee and what his level of concern is with A. Sherrod Blakely and Gary Tanguay.

10:03 - Michael Holley and Tom Curran discuss what NFL players, including Devin McCourty, are doing beyond the gridiron by being active in criminal justice reform discussions held at Harvard this week.



Morris getting it done for Celtics on both ends of the floor

Morris getting it done for Celtics on both ends of the floor

When you think about Marcus Morris these days, big-time scoring immediately comes to mind. 

But in Boston’s 105-100 comeback win over Portland, Morris’ contributions went beyond the game-high 30 points he dropped on the Blazers.

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“Coach (Brad Stevens) is doing a great job of getting me the ball in my spots and my teammates are finding me,” Morris told reporters after the win. “And I’m just coming through.”

He’s providing strong play and a tremendous presence at both ends of the floor which has been critical to the team navigating some choppy waters with a number of regular rotation players – namely Kyrie Irving – out with injuries.

“One thing is, he’s healthy,” said Boston’s Al Horford, referring to the sore knee that limited Morris earlier this season and at times forced him to miss games. “And the other is, he’s just more confident, he’s playing very assertive. He’s playing great right now, in a really good rhythm.”

Said Stevens: “That’s been him (Morris). As he’s continued to feel better; I think physically he’s felt as good as he’s felt. He’s comfortable in our system and we need him to score. If you’re a basketball player and your job is to score, that’s a pretty good job.”

And it’s one that even with all the injuries Boston has played through, few envisioned him being such an integral part of the offense. 

Morris’ calling card prior to arriving in Boston was his defense. 

But Morris has made it known that his focus on the floor is to be as complete a player as possible.

“I’m not trying to just limit myself to just being that scorer,” Morris said. “Also, on the defensive end I think I’m bringing it; my defense has gotten a lot better, especially my on-the-ball defense. I’m trying to be that all-around player and not just an offensive player … but I can score.”