Five takeaways: Thomas puts on one-man show
Thomas puts on one-man show
We've seen Isaiah Thomas shine brightly on more than one occasion, but nothing compares to the one-man show he put on Tuesday in Memphis before finishing with a career-high 44 points in the 112-109 overtime win.
More important was Thomas’ performance translating into a win against one of the league’s stingiest defenses, led by ex-Celtic and elite defender Tony Allen. And it came about after what had been a lackluster first half by Boston in which they scored a season-low 31 points.
“They were punking us in the first half,” Thomas said. “And a little bit in the third.”
But Thomas wasn’t having that in a second half in which he scored 36 points, which ranks among the greatest scoring halves ever by a Celtic. Al Horford called him “unstoppable.”
Here are five other takeaways from Tuesday’s victory which ranks among the team’s most impressive wins this season.
GERALD GREEN SIGHTING
Gerald Green was brought in to shoot the ball, and has for the most part done that when you consider only Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley -- Boston’s top two scorers -- average more shots taken per 36 minutes of time on the floor than Green. But making them, that’s another story. He didn’t put up huge numbers on Tuesday (five points, 2-for-6 shooting), but Green’s points had significant value. Memphis was in the middle of a huge run that began in the first and carried over into the second when head coach Brad Stevens, looking for a spark, turned to Green. His baskets helped the Grizzlies run from being larger than it was and maybe just as important, gave the Celtics hope that their shots might fall at some point on a night when, for the first half at least, that just didn’t seem possible.
3-BALL CONTINUES FLYING
Give the Celtics credit. They can be awful stubborn when it comes to shooting 3-pointers. After a horrific 1-for-15 shooting in the first half from 3-point land, they backed up the words of assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry, who told CSN’s Kyle Draper at the half that the Celtics were a better 3-point shooting team than the 1-for-15 numbers they had posted. Indeed they were as they connected on 11 of their 22 three-point attempts in the second half to finish 12-for-37 on 3s.
BRADLEY REMAINS ELITE DEFENDER
Speaking of Conley, props to Avery Bradley whose defense all game long reminded us all as to why he was a first-team all-NBA defender last season. His ability to keep Conley from getting the kind of dribble penetration that he wanted, was a major plus for the Celtics. And on top of that, Bradley still managed to be a factor offensively with 16 points.
ISAIAH THOMAS’ VALUE
We have seen moments when the Celtics have survived a few end-of-game possessions and even a game or two without Isaiah Thomas. But don’t think for a minute that Boston’s first signature win of the season and Thomas’ best scoring game like, ever, just so happened to coincidentally occur on the same night. His breakout game against the Memphis Grizzlies was symbolic of what has to happen in order for Boston to become an elite team. No, he doesn’t have to go off for 44 points for them to beat one of the league’s top five or 10 teams. But he does have to be dominant, because having a dominant scorer is what usually separates good teams from great ones.
C’s GETTING BOARDED UP TOO EASILY
The Celtics and rebounding are not friends; haven’t been all season really. That nearly cost them Tuesday’s game, one in which they were out-rebounded 52-41 overall and 17-8 on the offensive glass which led a decisive 23-5 advantage in second-chance points for Memphis. No one is expecting the Celtics to become a dominant rebounding force overnight. But they have to do a better job on the defensive boards because there will be very few nights when they can still win after an opponent is +18 on second-chance points.