BOSTON -- No one should expect Isaiah Thomas to play every minute of every game.
Judging by the way the Celtics play when he’s not in the game, an uptick in his minutes might be in order once the postseason arrives.
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Because in looking back on Boston’s 114-91 beating at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers, no point in the game sticks out more than the first six-plus minutes of the second quarter when Thomas went to the bench after playing the entire first quarter.
When Thomas went to the sideline for his usual five- to six-minute rest, Boston had a 20-19 lead.
Thomas returned to the floor with 5:57 to play in the half and the Celtics facing a 17-point deficit.
“Even as you go through and just kind of look at it, yes, that moment in time certainly didn’t help us by any means because we were playing uphill,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “But they were just better throughout the 48 minutes tonight.”
Of course, LeBron James had a lot to do with the Cavs’ run. He finished with a game-high 36 points to go with 10 rebounds and six assists.
But the rest Thomas got on the bench wrestled away any kind of control the Celtics had at the end of the first quarter.
And that just opened the floodgates to worst home loss for the Celtics this season.
The fact that Boston has struggled to mightily when Thomas leaves the game is not lost on his teammates.
“We have to find other ways to score the ball,” said backcourt mate Avery Bradley. “Like we say, it’s not just offense; it’s defense. Our defense has to be better. We can make shots all we want, but if we’re not defending the basketball we’re still gonna lose the game.”
Watching his team sink into a deeper and deeper hole while he was on the bench is a scene that has played out far too many times for Thomas this season.
But he refuses to make a stink about getting on the floor sooner in those instances.
“I trust Brad in whatever decision he makes,” Thomas said. “I let him coach and I play to the best of my ability. But that did hurt us, that run they went on to start the second [quarter]. They didn’t look back after that.”
Offensive lulls when Thomas goes to the bench has been an issue at times this season, but lately it seems to have become an even bigger problem.
And that’s not good for the Celtics, especially with the playoffs right around the corner.
“The positive thing about that is we get to see it now,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “And we can address it, and we can find ways to be better. Because I’m sure other teams are looking at that, too.”
Thomas said he hasn’t really given much thought about the potential runs teams may go on when he’s on the bench.
“I trust my teammates; I have confidence in those guys to go out there and play well,” Thomas said. “They just have to do it and they will. Tonight was a tough one. I guess it’s been a trend lately. But we’ll figure it out.”