Before Isaiah Thomas got to the NBA, he recalls going to a Dallas Mavericks practice with ex-Celtic Jason Terry who played for Dallas at the time.
Thomas recalls watching Dirk Nowitzki work out and needless to say, he was impressed.
“His workouts are amazing,” Thomas told reporters following Boston’s 111-98 win over Dallas on Monday night. “You see why he’s as great as he is.”
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And at times on Monday, the 5-foot-9 Thomas saw up-close how talented the 7-footer really is.
“It’s fun to be able to compete with him and sometimes match up against him even though he doesn’t see me when I switch on him,” said Thomas, grinning. “He’s a hell of player.”
But the defensive switch that Thomas speaks of, has become a common tactic by teams looking to take advantage of Thomas’ height and maybe just as significant as a way of wearing him down.
Thomas, who had 29 points on Monday against the Mavericks, is the NBA’s No. 2 scorer at 28.9 points per game in addition to leading the league in fourth-quarter points with 10.6 points per game.
So being such a prolific scorer this season, it’s understandable that teams will try and physically wear him down by forcing to exert more energy while defending a bigger player.
Thomas said it doesn’t bother him at all.
“You try to contest, keep them in front of you and if they make the shot, good shot,” Thomas said. “I’m not really bothered by them.”
It may have appeared as though the Mavericks tried to do that more than most of Boston’s opponents this season.
But a lot of that had to do with Dallas’ offense which relies heavily on isolation plays, usually with Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes or Wesley Matthews.
“That’s what they do to a lot of teams; they try and find the mismatch,” Thomas said. “And when Dirk has the ball in the middle, every matchup is a mismatch because he can shoot right over you.”