BOSTON – We all know that when the fourth quarter rolls around, that’s when Isaiah Thomas is at his best for the Boston Celtics.
As durable as he has proven himself to be, he can’t be on the floor for the entire game. And it’s that time when he’s resting, the Boston Celtics – on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks at least – began reeling which ultimately factored heavily in a 103-100 loss.
Thomas, who had 32 points to lead all scorers, started the second quarter on the bench with the score tied at 24. By the time he entered the game at the 8:29 mark, the Celtics were down double digits as the Bucks went on a 10-0 run. In the third quarter, Boston was outscored 6-5 when Thomas was on the bench and in the fourth, it was more of the same with Milwaukee outscoring Boston 8-3 when Thomas was not in the game.
By the end of the night, Boston was +15 (90-75) with Thomas on the floor, and -18 (10-28) when he was on the bench.
Thomas said he has an idea of how to address the team’s scoring lulls when he’s on the bench.
“Be aggressive; guys can’t second-guess themselves,” Thomas said. “Whoever he calls to get in the game, you gotta be aggressive. And when your shot’s there, you gotta take it. And you have to be aggressive and make plays, especially our guards.”
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens acknowledged that is an issue for his team.
“We’ve just got to play to our strengths to the best of our ability,” Stevens said. “I mean, that’s the bottom line. We’ll continue to do small tweaks to that until we find the exact right one. But yeah, we have, we have struggled in those moments to score. There’s no question about that.”
Thomas added, “that’s the biggest thing. We have to remain confident in each other. The guys who do go into the game, they have to be confident in themselves. We have to figure out how to be successful at those times. I believe in coach (Brad Stevens). I believe in the rest of the guys on this team. They just have to confidence and make plays; that’s all it comes down to.”
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Wednesday night’s 103-100 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Malcolm Brogdon: He may be in his first NBA season, but this rookie plays with the poise of a seasoned veteran. He had 16 points for the Bucks on 7-for-12 shooting which included a tightly contested jumper with 3.9 seconds to play. In addition to his scoring, Brogdon also had nine assists and four rebounds without committing a single turnover.
Isaiah Thomas: The “little guy,” as Tommy Heinsohn affectionately likes to refer to Thomas as, had another big game for Boston. He led all scorers with 32 points on 9-for-17 shooting while making 5-of-9 3’s to go with five rebounds and four assists with three steals. His five made 3’s gives him 223 for the season which is a franchise single-season record previous held by Antoine Walker (2001-2002 season).
Giannis Antetokounmpo: This wasn’t one of his best games, but there was no way to ignore the impact he made on the game at both ends of the floor. He finished with a team-high 22 points along with nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocked shots.
Khris Middleton: His ability to take advantage of the spacing created by Milwaukee’s ball-handlers dribbling into the paint, led for a very efficient evening for Middleton. He had 19 points on 8-for-14 shooting with six rebounds, five assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
Marcus Smart: He continues to struggle making shots for Boston, but that hasn’t prevented him from making an impact. Smart finished with his second double-double of the season, tallying 11 points to go with 11 rebounds which tied his career high.
Greg Monroe: The Celtics had serious problems keeping him from being an effective inside-the-paint target for the Bucks. He had 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting along with eight rebounds and three assists.
Jaylen Brown: This was a rough night for Brown who only played 13 minutes, 19 seconds against the Bucks. He missed two of his three shots from the field which isn’t that big a deal. But the Celtics were -21 when he was on the floor … in 13-plus minutes. Ouch!