BOSTON – When Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas found out he was named Eastern Conference Player of the week, he was with his family ice skating.
It was a fitting place for the 5-foot-9 guard to be considering how easily he has been gliding past opposing defenses this season.
One of those teams was the Memphis Grizzlies who have been the league’s top defensive club most of this season.
You would not have known that by the way Thomas had his way during Boston’s 112-109 overtime win on Dec. 20, a night in which Thomas scored a career-high 44 points – the kind of performance he would love to replicate when the Celtics host the Grizzlies tonight at the TD Garden.
Grizzlies coach David Fizdale acknowledged prior to the game that limiting Thomas is not an easy feat.
“You got any suggestions? Tackle him,” quipped Fizdale. “He’s one of the most dynamic offensive players in this league. He carries a big chip with him. I don’t see size at all when it comes to him. He plays a lot bigger than he is. I truly consider him a great player.”
And to stop him, it’ll take the league’s top defensive team to make him their number one priority on a level that they’re just not used to doing because for the most part, they play exceptional team defense.
“Once he starting hitting that 3-ball, that’s when it started to go downhill for us (last week),” Fizdale said. “We have to throw some different looks at him this time. We gotta impact him with different people guarding him. And maybe throw some traps at him, stuff like that.”
Fizdale was asked if ex-Celtic Tony Allen will see some time defending Thomas tonight.
“Heck yeah. You kidding me?” Fizdale said. “I might put (7-foot center) Marc Gasol on Isaiah tonight. We’re gonna throw the kitchen sink at him and hopefully that’ll slow his butt down a little bit.”
Thomas, whose 27.0 points per game average ranks seventh in the NBA, has seen a slew of different defensive looks this season. It will be interesting to see if Fizdale tries to put Allen, a five-time member of the NBA’s all-Defensive First or Second team, on Thomas exclusively.
“He’s a great defender,” Thomas said of Allen. “One of the most respected defensive players there is. But I have a job to do and not one man is going to stop me from doing that.”