BOSTON -- You could tell Isaiah Thomas had been down this road a few times before.
As the questions continued to pour in about Boston's next opponent -- the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers, who'll play Boston in the Eastern Conference finals -- they were clear reminders the Celtics are not expected to compete, let alone find success, in this upcoming series.
Even coach Brad Stevens sounded like someone who had bought into the Cleveland-is-seemingly-invincible mindset.
"You know, we played them four times," Stevens said of the Cavs after Tuesday night's 115-105 series-clinching, Game 7 win over the Wizards at TD Garden. "I think they're better than any of the four times we played them (in the regular season), including the last one where they smashed us (a 114-91 Cavs romp in Boston on April 5). So we're going to have to play really well."
And even that might not be enough in a series many anticipate will be a four-game Cleveland sweep.
But being in the passenger seat of such doubt is exactly what drives Isaiah Thomas to be who he is as a player.
And it's the reason why no matter how much my head tells me there's no way in hell Boston can win this series with Cleveland, I absolutely refuse to completely dismiss the little fella and his crew.
Because if there's one thing Thomas has taught us all during this current postseason journey: He's never out of it until he says so, and those words ain't leaving his lips anytime soon.
When Boston fell behind 2-0 to Chicago in the first round and everyone was ready to write the Celtics off as the worst No. 1 seed in NBA history, they bounced back to win four straight.
And after squandering a late lead in Game 6 at Washington and spending a good deal of the first two-plus quarters of Game 7 in a tightly contested battle, the Celtics exploded with a 22-5 run at the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth, propelling them to their first berth in the Eastern Conference finals since 2012.
So as the questions about Cleveland continued to line up one after the other, you could tell Thomas saw himself and his team in a much different light than those asking the questions.
"We know it's going to be tough, but at this point anything can happen and we really believe it," Thomas said. "They didn't give us a chance in this series, they didn't give us a chance when we were down 2-0 in Chicago. We got the No. 1 seed and they didn't give us a chance. They don't ever give us a chance and we just keep going. We don't care about what others say."
That has been the story of Thomas' basketball life, a narrative that's playing out right now when you talk about the Celtics facing the Cavaliers with the winner moving on to the NBA Finals.
Despite the C's having the best record in the East, they are seen by most pundits as road-kill-in-the-making for the Cavaliers.
And as much as common sense tells me that the Celtics are going to get crushed by Cleveland's Big Three, there's a part of me that can't totally buy into that. Because Thomas' track record for "I-told-you-so" moments is pretty damn long.
The Celtics wouldn't be where they are today if not for the play of Thomas, who earlier this year was invited to play in his second straight All-Star game.
But that pales in comparison to what he did on Monday night, knocking out the Wizards with a double-double of 29 points and a career playoff-high 12 assists.
He scored like the lethal scoring machine that he has been all season.
Thomas got teammates involved, which is what a 5-foot-9 guard is supposed to do.
But beyond that, he led the way towards a win. Not just any win, but a victory that put his team among the last four standing in what continues to be a fairy tale of a season.
"Nobody thought we would be here this fast," Thomas said. "Especially when I got traded here; I don't think anybody was thinking that in a couple years we'll be in the Eastern Conference finals. But the players on this team from the first guy to the last guy, we believe in each other."
And for those who think the Cavs will annihilate them with little trouble, it was clear these words by Thomas were meant for you.
"We never give up and we feel like we're just as good as any team in the NBA," he said. "We feel like we got more work to do even though the world is counting us out. We're gonna keep going regardless."
And that's reason enough for me not to be surprised by anything this crew -- led by Thomas -- achieves in the playoffs.