Five takeaways: Did that just happen?
Five takeaways: Did that just happen?
BOSTON – We’re just hours removed from Isaiah Thomas’ latest installment in the "Did that just happen?" movement that’s captivated audiences globally.
Setting foot on the floor with the tragedy he has endured is impressive on its own merit.
But the elevate his play to a level that no one – no one – in the playoffs is currently playing at, says a lot about the level of mental toughness and talent he brings to the floor on a nightly basis.
And the best part about it for Celtics fans?
The dude still has that 10-day contract mentality, showing no signs of settling for being exceptional.
That’s to be expected from a player who has been told all his life what he couldn’t do or achieve in life, only to prove his naysayers wrong time and time again.
“After going through all that he’s been going through with the tooth [he had a tooth knocked out in Game 1 which had him in the dentist’s chair for six hours on Monday and another three-to-four hours Tuesday prior to Game 2] and everything I just don’t think a lot of guys would have even played this game,” Al Horford said following the game. “It’s something special after what he’s gone through the past 24-36 hours to come out and drop 53 [points] that is special.”
Thomas’ play was certainly the story of the night, but here are five other takeaways from the Celtics’ 129-119 Game 2 overtime win against the Wizards:
John Wall and Bradley Beal form a lethal 1-2 punch that ranks among the NBA’s best backcourt tandems. Teams know you can’t shut either one of them down, but the Celtics have made life incredibly difficult on Beal. He averaged more than 27 points in Washington’s first-round series against Atlanta, but Boston’s three-headed defensive monster – Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder – have done a nice job of making him work extremely hard for the points he has scored. In the first two games, Beal has averaged 20.5 points but has shot just 38.2 percent (13-for-34) from the field with more turnovers (nine) than assists (eight). Wizards coach Scott Brooks complained after Game 2 about Boston’s defensive physicality on Beal, which we know is a message for the refs in Games 3 and 4 to give the sharpshooter a few more favorable whistles. “We’re going to keep playing the way we play defensively,” Smart told CSNNE.com following the Game 2 win. “We’re not going to change who we are, how we approach things. That’s what got us to where we are right now.”
CELTICS’ BACKUP POWER
One of the many question marks regarding the Celtics coming into this series was how their second unit would perform. So far, so good. The Celtics’ backups have been impressive on so many levels after the first two games, headlined by the scoring of Kelly Olynyk, who has averaged 10.0 points per game while making eight of his 10 field goal attempts, and Terry Rozier, in addition to strong defensive showings by Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.
When he left late in the first half with what was later determined to a right hip pointer, the worst fears for all were that the injury bug would once again sideline Boston’s best defender. But Bradley, who has worked tirelessly to shed that injury-prone image, did more than just return to the floor. He came back and made one of the biggest plays of the night, stripping the ball from John Wall and coasting in for an uncontested dunk that put the Celtics ahead 120-117 in OT. He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (6-for-16, 14 points), but he did what leaders do: he stepped up when it mattered most.
HORFORD GAINS STRENGTH
Is it me or does Al Horford seem to be getting better as we get deeper into the postseason? His numbers don’t blow you away, but the little things like providing help-side defense, connecting with a cutter to the basket or setting awesome screens to free shooters up – he’s doing all those things right now at a seemingly higher level than we saw in the regular season. That said, he still managed a double-double in Game 2 with 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting along with 12 rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots.
STEVENS’ COACHING VERSATILITY
The book on Brad Stevens even before he arrived in Boston, was that he was a heck of a coach who tends to get the most out of the talent he has to work with. That theory has been put to the test repeatedly in Boston’s postseason run and the fourth-year coach continues to make all the right moves. In Game 2 on Tuesday, Isaiah Thomas picked up two quick fouls in the first couple of minutes but Stevens rode him out as Thomas didn’t pick up another foul all game. Stevens went back to Amir Johnson as a starter, but realized it wasn’t working and turned to his bench, which, truth be told, was the difference in Game 2. Seldom-used backup Terry Rozier stepped up to make plays at both ends of the floor. Rookie Jaylen Brown saw his role diminished significantly in the postseason, but got an opportunity on Tuesday and made the most of it. Credit the players, obviously. But also give Stevens his props for listening to his gut to give those guys a shot at winning.