WASHINGTON – For most of Isaiah Thomas’ basketball career, the 5-foot-9 guard has had to guard bigger players.
So the idea of having to guard someone several inches taller wasn’t anything new or unexpected.
But Washington’s ability to generate some offense with points in the paint scored against Thomas was among the many keys to the Wizards pulling away for what was a dominant 116-89 drubbing.
- Stars, studs and duds: Isaiah Thomas nowhere to be found
- Celtics, Wizards combine for 8 technical fouls, 3 ejections in feisty Game 3
- Wizards beat Celtics, 116-89, in foul-filled Game 3
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The purpose of doing so is two-fold: to take advantage of the edge in size that all their players have over Thomas, and maybe wear him down so that he’s not as effective scoring the ball like he was in Game 2 when he had a career playoff-high 53 points.
Washington was successful on both fronts as Thomas scored just 13 points on 3-for-8 shooting in the Game 3 loss.
Thomas recalled Washington’s 6-foot-9 Otto Porter Jr. twice backing him down into the paint to score and Bojan Bogdanovic who is 6-foot-7, also finding success the one time he tried to as well.
Washington’s Bradley Beal tried to go at Thomas in the paint, but the 6-foot-4 guard didn’t have any luck.
“They wanted to go at me,” Thomas said, adding, “but it wasn’t as much as it looked like. We’ll be fine; I’ll be fine.”
Wizards guard John Wall acknowledged going at Thomas was a key aspect of Washington’s game plan heading into Game 3.
“We tried to, but then in the second quarter they got into doubling a little bit and we had a couple of turnovers,” Wall said. “We just have to do a better job of watching film with our spacing. But I think that it was a great … (Porter Jr.) was aggressive and got into the paint. That’s what you have to do. The first two games we kind of let Isaiah off the hook and just let him rest on the other end.”
Beal echoed similar sentiments about the Wizards’ game plan against Thomas and the Celtics.
“It was a key,” Beal said. “He got two fouls early. They are trying to hide him a little bit. We wanted to expose that. Otto gave him some trouble in the post; John did too. We were able to move the ball ot of it and that’s a good look for us. Of course, we’re going to continue to stick with it if they are going to continue to hide him.”
Even with the Wizards looking to attack Thomas more than usual, it’s not like Washington wanting to go at Thomas regularly is any different than what most teams try to do when they face the two-time all-star and the Celtics.
“Everybody on the court was aware of where he was,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “You cannot expect him to go for 50 every night. But that was not the game. I think the game was them attacking us on both ends of the court. They put us on our heels.”
And from there, on their backs to the point where Washington’s lead ballooned to as many as 30 points.
Thomas didn’t hesitate to credit the Wizards for a well-played game, doing what they needed to do to get back in this series.
“They did a really good job tonight at both ends of the floor; they set the tone,” Thomas said.
But he remains confident that he and the Celtics will make the necessary changes and play a better game when the two face off on Sunday in Game 4.
“We’ll make the adjustments as a team,” Thomas said. “I’ll watch film, make the adjustments of myself, and see where I can pick them apart.”