BOSTON – One by one, the shots continued to rim in and out.
Isaiah Thomas knew he had only one choice – he had to keep shooting.
Indeed, Thomas showed no signs of being deterred in his shooting struggles after a slow start gave way to a sizzling performance in lifting the Celtics to a 112-95 win over Philadelphia.
Thomas, who missed all four of his shots from the field in the first quarter, led all players with 27 points on 10-for-19 shooting. It was the kind of performance the Celtics have grown accustomed to getting from Thomas who was the team's top scorer last season while finishing as a runner-up for the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award.
A performance like the scoring show he put on Wednesday serves as a reminder that Thomas will likely be in the hunt for that award again.
In addition, his ability to shake off a slow start also speaks to his mental toughness which has been put to the test lately.
Prior to Wednesday’s victory, Thomas had struggled with his shot throughout most of the preseason.
But in watching him play, Thomas showed no signs of hesitation or uncertainty about his role as the team’s top scorer.
“That’s my job,” Thomas said. “I’m not going to be shy when I got a job to do out there. Coach (Brad Stevens) has confidence in me. My teammates have confidence in me, and they tell me to continue being aggressive – so I’m going to continue to do that.”
After the win, Stevens made it clear that he has no doubts about Thomas’ shooting even when he hits a stretch or two when shots aren’t falling with any regularity.
“I mean that’s the biggest thing,” Stevens said. “We’ve talked quite a bit about that: play with speed, play aggressive, play with spirit, let the chips fall where they may with him.”
While having an unflappable faith in one’s game certainly helps, Thomas is quick to point out the work he puts into his game that allows him to remain confident through the ups and downs that all scorers in the NBA experience.
“I work on it, each and every day,” Thomas said. “I know that some point in time, it’s going to fall. I have that confidence in my game, and I work on my craft, so I think the harder you work, and when it doesn’t happen in games, you go to what you know.
After missing his first four shots from the field, Thomas managed to get to the free throw line where he made one of two attempts.
That set into motion a 10-point second quarter which was just four points less than the entire Sixers team scored in the second.
In addition to his scoring, Thomas also managed to dish out seven assists.
“No matter if I’m having a good game or not, you have to just make the right play out there,” Thomas said. “If the right play is to shoot, and I’m not making them, I have to continue to shoot that shot.”