Celtics

Celtics

Isaiah Thomas has hit some amazing shots this season, the kind that leave little doubt as to why he has been among the NBA’s biggest breakout performers this season.

But as much as Sunday night’s 109-106 loss at Phoenix stings, Thomas has done this long enough to know that there’s only one thing he can do now – move on to the next game.

The games come at a fast and furious pace for the Celtics (40-23) who will be back at it tonight against the Los Angeles Clippers for what will be Boston’s third game in four nights.

MORE: Paul Pierce plays his final game against Celtics

Just as Thomas has often been at the center of the Celtics’ success this season, he played a prominent role in Sunday’s loss.

Late in the fourth quarter with a 105-104 lead, Thomas made the second of two free throws.

On the ensuing Phoenix possession, Eric Bledsoe tied the game at 106 with four seconds remaining.

A miscommunication between Thomas and Jae Crowder on the in-bounds led to the ball squirting free and into the hands of Suns rookie Tyler Ulis.

Ulis, who was already having a career night scoring the ball, drained the game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

 

So many times this season we have seen Thomas, the King of the Fourth Quarter, deliver a late-game dagger.

But on Sunday, it was another 5-foot-9 lefty (Ulis) getting it done in the clutch.

“We should have won the game,” Thomas told reporters afterwards. “Made a terrible turnover at the end; the basketball gods (were) on their side tonight. He (Ulis) hit a crazy shot. It happens sometimes.”

Those are the words that you will hear replayed over and over again in relation to this game.

But it is what Thomas said right after that which speaks to where his head and the rest of the Celtics, are at following a disappointing loss.

“You have to try and move on the best way possible,” he said. “Once we leave this room, we have to forget about it, especially with a back-to-back with a good team like the (Los Angeles) Clippers. We have to focus on the Clippers. We lost; tough game. They hit a buzzer-beating shot. You have to try and move on to the next one as fast as possible.”

That means mentally focusing on a Clippers team whose season, while not totally lost, has definitely taken a turn in a direction few anticipated.

The Clippers (37-25), riddled with injuries throughout most of this season, are currently fifth in the Western Conference with Memphis and Oklahoma City just 1.5 and 2.5 games back, respectively. They are coming off a 101-91 win at Chicago on Saturday after having lost four of their previous five games which included three losses by double digits.

Clippers super sub Jamal Crawford paced them against the Bulls with 25 points off the bench. But the key to their win over Chicago was their defense which limited the Bulls to just 30 points in the second half (a Bulls’ season-low for a half this season).

The Clippers are hoping Crawford’s breakout performance (he had scored in single digits in five of the Clippers’ previous six games) will become contagious for a team many anticipated would be, along with San Antonio, right behind Golden State in the Western Conference.

Instead, they’re battling just to get home court in the first round of the playoffs.

And then there’s the story-beyond-the-game tonight, which will pit Boston against ex-Celtic Paul Pierce for the last time. Pierce, who spent his first 15 years in the NBA with the Celtics, received an emotional farewell last month when he played at the TD Garden for the last time.

Not only will tonight’s game fall well short in terms from an emotional standpoint, but there’s no sense as to whether Pierce will even play.

The 10-time All-Star has not played (coaches decision) in 23 of the Clippers’ last 24 games with the lone exception being against the Celtics on Feb. 5.

In that game, Pierce played just over five minutes and made his lone 3-point attempt late in the game for what may have served as the 39-year-old’s final points scored in the NBA.