Isaiah Thomas on Game 7: 'I don’t believe in pressure'

Isaiah Thomas on Game 7: 'I don’t believe in pressure'

BOSTON – Isaiah Thomas has had an incredible season, putting up the kind of numbers that have led to his name being tossed around in conversation with the likes of Larry Bird, John Havlicek, Paul Pierce, among others.

But they all have won NBA titles, something that separates them from Thomas and to large extent, helped cement their legacies as being among the greatest to play for this organization.

Thomas has made no secret about one day when his career ends, being talked about and revered as one of the greats.

And he’ll be the first to tell you that he’s not in their class yet, because they won at the highest level while he’s done nothing more than get the Celtics out of the first round of playoffs earlier this month.

Which brings us to tonight’s Game 7 matchup with the Washington Wizards with the winner advancing to the Eastern Conference finals where a well-rested Cleveland Cavaliers team will be waiting.

There’s more on the line than just a trip to the conference finals.

And Thomas isn’t just fighting to get his team to the next round; he’s fighting to keep building upon his steadily improving position among the greats to wear the Green and White.

That’s some serious pressure, right?

Not according to Thomas.

“I don’t believe in pressure,” Thomas said. “I worked too hard to be scared of any type of pressure. I’m treating it (Game 7) just like it was Game 1. You have to treat every game the same. It is the last game of the series and it’s very important. We have to protect home court and just do our job.”

Home court has been the narrative of this series, one in which the home team has won each of the first six games.

It's a trend the Celtics are hoping to keep alive tonight as they try close out what has been a tough, rugged series filled with hard fouls and hard feelings from both teams.

“Both teams are playing well at home,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “Hope to keep it going. I know they’re going to come ready to play, so we need to come ready to play as well. It’s going to be a tough game.”

So often we have seen this team follow the path Thomas has blazed for them.

That’s why his talk of feeling no pressure, not surprisingly, is very much the narrative that most of the Celtics are talking about leading up to tonight’s winner-moves-on battle.

While there’s a certain amount of pressure that comes with any game of this significance, Crowder doesn’t believe that will determine Monday night’s winner.

“Don’t get it confused,” Crowder said. “The hardest-playing team is going to win this game.”

And while the Celtics aren’t overflowing with players with Game 7 experience, most have been in similar situations.

“All these guys played Game 7’s when they took to the court in March,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, referring to the NCAA Tournament. “That’s what they’ve done their whole lives. There are moments in the season that are really pivotal. There are moments in a series that can go one way or another. But when it is how you play tomorrow determines if you play (Wednesday), I can’t think of anything more fun, to be honest. If you love the game, this is what it’s all about.”

While there’s certainly a lot of fun involved, it can’t completely replace the pressure, right?

“Everybody is going to look at it their own way,” Stevens said. “Again, the game of basketball is something we all share, we all love basketball. These are the moments you live for. This is where guys have always dreamed about and enjoy. It should be a lot of fun.”

It will be for Thomas who will approach Game 7 with a worry-free mindset, well aware of its implications for the Celtics season and his steadily-improving status in what has been one of the best individual seasons ever by a Celtic.

It’s Game 7, folks.

Winners move on to the next round, losers move on to the summer.

Thomas can’t help but grin when he talks about tonight’s game and all that’s at stake.

“That’s where legends are born,” Thomas said.

Celtics finding ways to win without Kyrie Irving

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Celtics finding ways to win without Kyrie Irving

As expected, Kyrie Irving’s first regular season with the Boston Celtics is over following a procedure on his left knee Saturday that team officials described as being "minimally invasive," that will keep him sidelined until the playoffs.

Not having Irving for the final 10 games of the regular season is certainly disappointing for Boston, but it won’t have the kind of devastating impact one might expect a team to have to endure when the leading scorer is out for a significant chunk of time.

Friday’s 105-100 win over Portland was Boston’s fifth straight game without Irving, and 12th this season.


There’s no question Boston is a better team when he is in the lineup.

But when he’s not, the Celtics have continued to find ways to win games which is evident in their 8-4 record when Irving has not played.

Victories over teams like the Blazers only validates the quality depth that the Celtics players speak of when they talk about their team. 

“We know what we have,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “It is encouraging for our group. And for us it’s to make sure we keep working and understand when we commit on the defensive end, we’re a tough team to beat.”

But Horford acknowledges the challenge to be successful becomes infinity greater when key players such as Irving are out.

“We can’t dwell on the guys who are not here, the guys who are injured,” Horford said. “It’s tough, but it’s an opportunity for other guys to step up and guys have really taken advantage of that opportunity. We’re trying to move forward. It’s hard but we don’t have an option.”

Here are five takeaways from Boston’s 105-100 win at Portland on Friday night.


The ability to not just run a team but do so in an effective, steady manner is what separated Shane Larkin from most of the guys who saw action last night. He made timely shots, kept the ball moving (he had seven assists and just one turnover) while playing at a really good tempo which was apparent as he finished with a pace of 95.97 which was tops among all Celtics players.


Greg Monroe could not have picked a better time to play his best basketball of the season. Against the Blazers, he came off the bench and tallied a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds. The 10 boards were particularly impressive with a team-best rebounding percentage of .303 and team-best usage percentage of .316 which speaks to how Boston made a point of going to Monroe early and often when he was on the floor.


It was another big-time scoring night for Marcus Morris who led all scorers with 30 points, easily becoming a fixture as Boston’s go-to guy now that Kyrie Irving (left knee) will miss the rest of the regular season. And like Irving, Morris is doing it in an extremely efficient manner. Against the Blazers, the 6-foot-8 forward was 9-for-13 (69.2 percent) shooting from the field with an effective field goal percentage eFG% of .885.


For most of Friday’s game, Jayson Tatum was not having a good game offensively with three points through three quarters of play. But Tatum, one of the NBA’s better fourth quarter players, was once again saving his best for last. He would go on to lead the Celtics with 10 points in the fourth quarter, which was a huge factor in Boston’s comeback victory.


The Celtics’ second unit looks a little different, but the production and overall impact remains strong as ever. Boston’s backups outscored their Portland brethren 26-10. But more than the points, Boston’s backups individually came up with big plays. Greg Monroe’s 10-point, 10-rebound performance stood out for obvious reasons. But the floor leadership of Shane Larkin and timely contributions from Guerschon Yabusele was also important in the win.


Blakely: Stevens has this coaching in March stuff down

Blakely: Stevens has this coaching in March stuff down

Sometimes we forget that a big part of why Brad Stevens is in Boston is because of what he has done as a coach this time of year.

He led a pair of Butler teams to deep postseason runs before coming up short in a pair of national title games.

Well, he’s embarking on a different kind of March Madness in leading the Celtics to a string of improbable wins, the latest being a 105-100 victory at Portland on Friday night.

It was the kind of victory that when you start to roll out the reasons why Stevens should be this season’s Coach of the Year winner, folks will use the win at Portland as an example.

The Blazers are not only one of the better teams at home, but they came in having won 13 of 14 games with the lone loss coming to Houston, which has the best record in the NBA.

But what made the victory so unexpected was the cut-and-paste lineup Stevens has employed because of a long rash of injuries.

Kyrie Irving missed his fifth consecutive game and is expected to be lost for another three to six weeks after having a procedure to on Saturday to help alleviate some of the soreness in his left knee.

Jaylen Brown has missed several games with a concussion, but he has progressed to where he's now questionable for the game in Sacramento on Sunday night. 

Boston was also without Marcus Smart (right thumb) who won’t be back until sometime in the playoffs.

And that doesn’t factor in Gordon Hayward (dislocated left ankle) or Daniel Theis (torn meniscus, left knee), both out for the season.

It’s easy to chalk up Stevens’ success to great Xs and O’s work.

But he’s doing more than that.

He’s inspiring a level of confidence in players that generated results exceeding all expectations; that is, expectations outside of their locker room.

Even when this team struggled with no clear signs of hope on the horizon, they didn’t blink.

Rather than use their less-than-ideal state as a justification for poor play, they funneled that energy and focus into becoming a better team - not better players, but a better team.

Because frankly, that is what we’ve seen from this group all season. Of course, you have your star in Irving, but this team has been a get-it-done-or-else squad all year that doesn’t get too locked into the success or struggles of any one teammate.

And that has allowed Boston to withstand the kind of injuries to key players that would have crippled many other teams.

But with the lack of bodies, there has been a lack of respect for how good this team really is.

Stevens has tapped into that and used it to help focus this team on playing great and most important, giving themselves a chance to win regardless of the opponent, regardless of how dire a situation may be.

And that has created the kind of March Madness Celtics fans are absolutely lovin’ right now.