At some point tonight, Isaiah Thomas is going to have an eye towards driving into the lane against the Utah Jazz.
And Utah’s defensive ace, 7-foot-1 Rudy Gobert, will be somewhere in the vicinity waiting for him.
Thomas’ game plan when faced with the NBA’s best shot-blocker nearby?
“Just attack him,” Thomas told reporters prior to tonight’s game. “Shot blockers, you’ve just got to attack ‘em. I mean, they’re gonna block a few shots. You’ve just gotta keep going at ‘em. And for me, I’ve just gotta figure out different ways to score over him.”
That was the game plan when these two met earlier this season, a 115-104 Celtics win.
Thomas, coming off a career-high 52 points against Miami on Dec. 30, tallied 29 points and a career-high 15 assists in Boston’s victory.
The 115 points scored by Boston was the most allowed by the Jazz this season, a point total fueled in large part by the play of Thomas.
“His ability to finish is incredibly unique,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, referring to Thomas. “It’s because he can find angles and go around. His ability to get around defenses is what makes him so unique.”
Said Thomas; “He’s so long, so tall and he’s one of the best shot-blockers in the game. So my job is just, when I get in there, I’ve just gotta figure out how to get it to the hoop.”
Stevens points to the fact that unlike some players in the NBA, Thomas has always had to navigate his way in the paint around bigger players.
“He’s always been the smallest guy on the court,” Stevens said.
When reminded that he has had to deal with bigger defenders his entire life, Thomas agreed.
“But he’s a little different,” Thomas said. “They haven’t been that tall my whole life.”
Although many see his size as a detriment, it actually becomes a strength once he gets into the lane.
“No matter how big you are, once I’m able to get a body on you, it helps me,” Thomas said. “I can stay in the air a little long than them and figure things out. But like I said, he’s (Gobert) a hell of a defender and you’ve got to pick and choose when to attack him.”