We’ve seen enough of Isaiah Thomas to know that he will make an impact for the Boston Celtics, usually with a barrage of buckets.
But as good a scorer as Thomas has proven himself to be, he is not a one-man operation.
He’ll need help if the Celtics (43-31) are to bounce back tonight at Portland following Monday night’s 114-90 beating at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I’m just trying to get myself to be more aggressive to get the ball in the hoop,” Thomas told reporters following Monday’s loss. “I still have to manage getting others involved and being a scorer. I have to do both and do it at a high level.”
Finding that happy medium has become a lot tougher without Jae Crowder (high ankle sprain) who may return to action as early as tonight after having missed Boston’s last eight games with the injury.
In those eight games, Thomas has averaged 24.9 points and 4.5 assists while shooting 42.9 percent from the field and 34.7 percent on 3s.
Prior to Crowder’s injury, Thomas scored at a 21.9 points per game clip and dished out 6.6 assists per game while shooting 42.8 percent from the field and 35.4 percent from 3-point range.
Celtics guard Avery Bradley will be among Thomas’ teammates who can help Thomas find better on-the-floor balance which should in turn help Boston get back on a winning track.
Despite being without Crowder the last eight games, Bradley has averaged 14.8 points in that span compared to 15.1 points per game prior to Crowder’s injury.
Bradley sees improved communication as being one of the keys to Boston playing better tonight.
“Not only that, but us making plays, all of us,” Bradley told reporters. “And make shots; that’s the most important thing.”
Having already beaten the Blazers decisively back in Boston, one of the keys to that victory was the play of Boston’s backcourt which outplayed all-star Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum who is one of the NBA’s most improved players this season.
In Boston’s 116-93 win over Portland on March 2, Thomas and Bradley combined for 47 points on an efficient 18-of-34 shooting night while Lillard and McCollum tallied 37 points on 13-for-30 shooting.
“One thing about good players in this league,” Bradley said. “All you can do is try to make everything hard on them. They’re usually going to get their average no matter what.”
Especially Lillard, who has been among the NBA’s toughest covers since the all-star break with a 27.7 points per game average which ranks fourth in the league.
When Boston faced Portland earlier this month, Lillard had 20 points on 8-for-17 shooting.
“That’s what we try to do to Dame (Lillard),” Bradley said. “We try to make every possession hard on him; try to put a lot of different guys on him.”
And while the Celtics know that delivering another dominant performance isn’t likely on the road, the way they played that night is indeed a blueprint of sorts of what they have to do tonight.
The Celtics had six players in double figures scoring, and were decisive in winning the effort categories such as points in the paint (60-34), second-chance points (21-9) and fast-break points (30-11).
“We played great as a team,” Bradley said. “That’s why we got the win that night.”