BOSTON – On more than one possession, you could see Isaiah Thomas dart into the lane only to disappear in a sea of arms, legs and really long torsos.
And seemingly out of nowhere, the ball would emerge into the hands of one of Thomas’ Celtics teammates who was in position for a wide open shot that more often than not, they made on Tuesday against Utah.
Boston’s 115-104 win over the Jazz was a game highlighted by Thomas’ game-high 29 points. But just as impressive was his career-high 15 assists, many of which came with Thomas not even seeing who the target was or whether the pass even made it there.
“I really do think IT (Thomas) has eyes in the back of his head,” Jaylen Brown told reporters after Tuesday’s win. “I think he can actually see behind him. Sometimes he’s in the paint with all the trees, and he just whips it out to the three-point line. It’s like how’d he see that? I think he has eyes behind his head, behind his headband.”
Thomas acknowledged that there are times when he’ll make a pass and not see exactly where it’s going or who is the recipient.
“You have to trust where your guys are going to be,” Thomas said. “That’s being familiar with the guys that you play with. But most of the time, guys are in the right spots. When I can’t see I try to throw it to the rim. I know Jae is going to be on my right side so I can always throw back-right. It’s just being familiar with your players and knowing where they’re going to be.”
Part of Thomas’ growth as a player is recognizing how to get teammates more involved. During his career high 52-point performance against Miami on Dec. 30, Thomas did not tally a single assist.
But he was clearly in more giving mood on Tuesday despite seeing a slew of defenders all game long against the Jazz.
“I don’t know how much more attention he can attract, I mean, because he’s been doing it here for two years,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He’s been a huge focal point and people have blitzed him and switched him and done pretty much everything you can do. But he’s always going to attract everybody’s best effort; that’s for sure. And he’s a heck of a tough shot maker; he made tough shots (against Utah). And I thought we had some timely shots that kind of stemmed the tide as they were coming back, I mean he hit a three on a pull-up to make it 11 or 13 at one point when they were starting to build some momentum and those are really helpful shots, obviously.”
Said Thomas: “They give you a lot of attention, then you have to take what they give you and find the open man. They can’t take away everything. If they try … I have to find other ways to be an impact on the game.”
In addition to bolstering his own numbers and helping the Celtics win, it also helps out his teammates.
“It’s great for me,” said Brown. “He’s got so much attention on him. All I have to do is finish. He makes the game easier for me; he makes the game easier for everybody else.”