Celtics

Blakely: Thomas honors sister, Celtics with performance for the ages

Blakely: Thomas honors sister, Celtics with performance for the ages

BOSTON – These days have been difficult, emotionally draining times for Isaiah Thomas.

His sister Chyna Thomas was killed in a one-car accident on April 15, and her funeral was held two weeks later.

And on Monday, it was her birthday.

She would have been 23.

In between, Thomas has had to battle the pain that such emotions surely bring on, with the reality that he has been charged with leading the Boston Celtics into the playoff promise land that a number one seed like the Celtics are expected to venture into.

Despite all the challenges and hurdles that have come his way, Thomas hasn’t just soldiered through these teams.

He has grown bigger, stronger, more unstoppable.

The 5-foot-9 Thomas was all that and then some on Tuesday, delivering a game for the ages in leading the Celtics to a 129-119 overtime win Game 2 of their best-of-seven series with the Washington Wizards.

He scored a playoff career-high 53 points, the second-highest scoring game in Celtics playoff history, trailing the great John Havlicek who scored 54 points on April 1, 1973.

Thomas wasn’t searching for another spot among the all-time great Celtics on Tuesday.

His focus was honoring his sister and in the process, finding a way, anyway, to lead Boston to a victory which now has them ahead 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.

“I was just so locked in that fourth quarter and overtime because I wanted to win the game so bad that I really didn’t know what I had (point-wise),”  said Thomas who scored 29 points in the fourth quarter and the overtime session. “I just knew that I had to keep being aggressive.”

He was that indeed, although he had some company most of the night in Washington’s John Wall.

Wall finished with a double-double of 40 points and 13 assists, although the Celtics kept him scoreless in the overtime session.

Even though their point totals were on the high side, this was not Larry Bird-Dominique Wilkins from the 1988 Eastern Conference semifinals when they seemingly went shot-for-shot before the Celtics emerged with the win as Bird and Wilkins scored 34 and 47 points, respectively.

But make no mistake about what happened Tuesday night.

Thomas’ play will be an instant classic, and will be remembered years from now as one of the greatest individual performances by a Celtics player ever in a postseason game.

Not only because of the volume of points he scored, or its significance in terms of keeping the Celtics in control of this series.

But because of all the off-the-court challenges he has faced in recent weeks, including the replacement of a tooth that was knocked out in Game 1.

Thomas spent six hours in the dentist’s chair on Monday, and another four or five hours prior to tonight’s game.

“(Earlier) today my mouth was so swollen I had to go back to the hospital to get a few meds to get the swelling down because I could barely talk,” Thomas said. “I knew once game time came, my guys would get me going and get me the energy to try and win the game.”

Following the game, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens once again found himself – like most of us – stunned and amazed at how Thomas continues to find ways to elevate his game despite their being so many reasons, legitimate ones, for his game to fall off.

“What else is there to say?” Stevens said. “You know, there’s a point today when he was not feeling good at all, and was having a tough day, and I thought he was going to really have to gut this one out. And he not only guts it out, he ends up with (53). Pretty impressive.”

Said Marcus Smart: “He (Thomas) was in a zone. He wasn't going to let anything or anyone stop him. He was unstoppable tonight."

Terry Rozier added, “It’s just time after time after time. He just gets it done. He’s great to watch. He’s a great teammate. I’m happy for him.”

But this monumental achievement was indeed a bittersweet time for Thomas, knowing it was in part motivated by the death of his sister.

And while Thomas was certainly motivated to win because it is the playoffs, doing so in honor of his sister seemed to make him even more locked in than usual.

“I know it was for her,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley who grew up in the same Tacoma, Washington neighborhood as Thomas. “It was special; it was special.”

Said Thomas: “It’s nice for your name to be in Celtics history because of all the great players. But until you win one of those championships you can’t call yourself a great player until you do that. That is the ultimate goal.”

Stars, studs and duds: Bounce is real for Waiters, Heat

Stars, studs and duds: Bounce is real for Waiters, Heat

The bounce is real.

No, I’m not talking about Kelly Olynyk’s hops.

I’m talking about that late-game shot made by Dion Waiters that was among the many big plays made by the Miami Heat in handing Boston a 104-98 loss which snapped the Celtics’ 16-game winning streak.

After Marcus Smart split a pair of free throws that cut Miami’s lead to 91-90, Waiters pulled up for a 3-pointer that hit the top of the backboard, took a high bounce and dropped through the net to make it a 94-90 game with 2:56 to play.

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Just 22 seconds later, Al Horford – an 83.8 percent free throw shooter – missed a pair of free throws that was soon followed by another 3-pointer from Waiters.

“They were terrific tonight,” Boston’s Brad Stevens told NBC Sports Boston’s Kyle Draper following the game. “Miami played with incredible pace, with their ability to drive the ball, I thought they put us on our heels most of the night. No question, they deserved to win the game. Maybe that’s why they got the big bounce (on Waiters’ 3-pointer with 2:56 to play) and that kind of separated it as we were coming back.”

Said Al Horford: “Our group, we kept fighting, we kept pushing each other. We have to give the Heat credit. They did what they needed to do, they stuck it out and they beat us.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 104-98 loss to the Miami Heat which snapped Boston’s 16-game winning streak as well as ended Boston’s eight-game winning streak over the Heat.

 

STARS

Dion Waiters

On the heels of his worst game as a pro (he was 0-for-10 in loss to Indiana on Sunday), Waiters was the difference-maker above all others on Wednesday. He finished with 26 points which included a team-best eight points in the fourth quarter.

Jayson Tatum

He didn’t lead the Celtics in scoring, but he was very impressive with his play in the second half to bring Boston within striking distance in the fourth quarter. He had 18 points and seven rebounds along with four assists.

 

STUDS

Goran Dragic

While Waiters closed out the win for Miami with a strong fourth quarter, Dragic put the Heat in position for the win with a strong game most of the night. He would finish with a game-high 27 points. He also had five rebounds and four assists.

Kyrie Irving

Irving came up with a slew of late-game baskets to keep hope alive that the Celtics could once again rally from a double-digit deficit and win. Even though he and the Celtics came up short, Irving still tallied a team-high 23 points and did so on an efficient 11-for-22 shooting night.

 

DUDS

Al Horford

It was a rough night shooting the ball for Horford who had X points on 3-for-10 shooting. He wasn’t any better from the free throw line while missing both of his free throw attempts in the fourth.

Celtics bench

There were signs of improvement with Marcus Morris (14 points) playing with the second unit, but this unit continues to struggle when it comes to making shots. For the game, Boston’s backups shot 9-for-28 (32.1 percent).

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Mistakes burn Celtics in 104-98 loss to Heat, ending win streak

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Mistakes burn Celtics in 104-98 loss to Heat, ending win streak

For the past few games, Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens hinted about his team showing signs of slippage in his team’s play and overall execution.

“We need to get back, better attention to detail, from the last couple of games we had,” Stevens told reporters prior to the game. “Our techniques haven’t been great the last couple games.”

It finally caught up to them, as the Celtics could not muster up the usual defensive stops and clutch shot-making that catapulted them to one of the greatest runs in franchise history that came to an end Wednesday night as the Heat ended Boston’s 16-game winning streak by handing the Celtics a 104-98 loss.

The Miami backcourt of Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters scored 27 and 26 points, respectively. Meanwhile, the Celtics were led by Kyrie Irving’s 23 points and Jayson Tatum who had 18 points and seven rebounds.

The Celtics (16-3) suffered their first loss since the second game of the season against Milwaukee (108-100), and their first road defeat since a 102-99 season-opening loss at Cleveland.

Trailing by 16 points at the start of the fourth quarter, Boston made it a single-digit game (91-84) following a 3-pointer by Tatum.

But when it mattered most, Boston made way too many mistakes and didn’t capitalize on the opportunities to put serious pressure on the Heat.

  • Trailing 91-89, Marcus Smart split a pair of free throws.
  • Trailing 94-90, Al Horford – an 83.8 percent free throw shooter coming into tonight’s game – missed a pair of free throws.
  • Down 97-92, Jaylen Brown throws a full-court errant pass that sails out of bounds.
  • Celtics down 99-94 with less than a minute to play force a missed shot, but fail to get the rebound as it sails out of bounds off Terry Rozier.

It was that kind of game for the Celtics, whose 16-game winning streak is a thing of the past that was the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

Boston once again found itself playing from behind in the first half, with the Heat pulling ahead by as many as 18 points. However, an 11-6 run to end the second quarter by Boston trimmed Miami’s lead at the half down to 54-41 at the half.

The third quarter has usually been the start of Boston’s comeback.

But to the Heat’s credit, Miami was able to maintain their double-digit lead until a 3-pointer by Al Horford made it a 58-50 game with just over eight minutes to play.

But the Heat responded with four straight points which put Miami up 62-50, leading to a Brad Stevens time-out with 7:28 to play in the third.

The Celtics continued to try and battle back, but the Heat refused to budge on its double-digit lead which stood at 16 points (79-63) going into the fourth quarter.

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