At the half on Friday night from Oracle Arena, the Boston Celtics held a slim 45-43 lead over Golden State and their best scorer by a mile, Isaiah Thomas, had as many points as the guy five rows back with a lap full of nachos.
But the poor start shooting the ball by Thomas (zero points, 0-for-7 from the field) was balanced by his five assists without a single turnover.
“We had 15 assists and six turnovers at halftime,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters following the loss. “That was the best we’ve had in a while. So I was pleased with our half overall.”
And as far as Thomas’ play through the first two quarters, Stevens said, “To be up two with Isaiah 0-for-7 I felt pretty good. You knew he was going to get some to go in, to go down.”
Thomas has made no secret about working towards finding a balance between doing what he does best which is score, along with getting his teammates involved. The 5-foot-9 guard provided both – assists in the first half and scoring in the second – in leading Boston to a 109-106 victory.
Thomas led the Celtics in scoring for a franchise record 15th straight game, with 22 points. He also dished out six assists.
“I stayed aggressive, stayed the course,” Thomas said. “My teammates kept confidence in me and wanted me to be in attack mode.”
In the third quarter Thomas scored 13 of Boston’s first 15 points, the kind of offensive flurry Boston needed to combat the barrage of 3s being knocked down by reigning league MVP Stephen Curry who led all scorers with 29 points which included eight of Golden State’s 20 made 3s.
“It’s tough guarding a guy when he steps on the floor he’s in range and he’s got the green light to do what he wants,” Thomas said. “The thing you have to do is make it tough on him, and at the other end hit him with screens, try to make him somewhat tired.”
A similar tact has been taken by a lot of teams when it comes to defending Thomas who was named an all-star for the first time in February. And while limiting his scoring is certainly one of the primary challenges every team that faces Thomas has to contend with.
But as we saw in the first half of Boston’s most significant win of the season, his passing game can be effective as well.