The 20-point fourth quarter for Isaiah Thomas never came on Tuesday, unlike the Jan. 11 comeback win for the Boston Celtics over the Wizards. Then, they showed Thomas the same coverages.
This time, they gave Thomas different looks and were successful in exploiting the 5-foot-9 point guard's weaknesses at both ends.
Thomas had 25 points and 13 assists, which looks great if he's on your fantasy team, but those terms were dictated by Washington. All stat lines aren't created equal. Thomas' impact paled in comparison to Bradley Beal's 31 points and five assists, or John Wall's 27 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in Wednesday's 123-108 domination.
The Wizards (25-20) stuck to coach Scott Brooks' gameplan to near perfection.
On the defensive end:
Ball pressure. Kelly Oubre wouldn't let Thomas breathe as he splits screens and gets help from Otto Porter to stop the momentum. When Thomas gets the ball back after an awkward pass out to relieve the pressure, Oubre tries to deny the return and harrasses Thomas every step of the way until he settles for deep jumper that wasn't in rhythm.
Find Thomas in half-court at all times. If it's between closing out him or Marcus Smart on the perimeter, that's an easy decision. Let Smart shoot.
Make Thomas finish over size. Sometimes he'll succeed but many times he won't.
Another example of the same concept. Marcin Gortat has to switch with Oubre, who takes Al Horford. The Wizards pack the paint successfully to prevent dribble penetration and Gortat keeps his 6-11 frame in front and contests the jumper which falls short.
Find Thomas in transition and either run him off the three-point line or contest at all cost (he shot 1-for-6 from the arc).
Be physical with him on screen, dribble-handoff and dribble-pitch action. Gortat steps out to slow him from turning the corner and Oubre's 7-2 wingspan prevents Thomas from exploding to the rim. Instead, he gets too deep with no where to go among the trees, stumbles and turns it over.
On the offensive end:
Isolate and make his defense a liability. The moment the second half began, the Wizards went at Thomas with Beal, who at 6-5 is too big, too strong and too athletic. Over a guy his own size, this is a difficult shot for Beal. He has an unobstructed view on this one. He takes the handoff and Gortat twists the screen. Although Horford's containment initally works and Gortat gets the pass back, the spacing is created to allow Beal to isolate. Beal holds his ground for the return pass and Gortat cuts to the weakside of the floor, which forces Horford to either double-team immediately tor follow the big into the paint. Horford leaves. Beal goes to work.
Run him through multiple screens. Thomas isn't physical and is easy to knock off balance with contact. He has to fight through this pindown from Wall then a screen from Gortat and has no chance to recover to Beal. Horford is playing so soft in coverage, he's giving him a mid-range practice shot.
Don't let him hide. Oubre isn't the offensive threat at the level of Beal, but the Wizards made Thomas defend him, too. Oubre is 6-7 and comes off this curl cut for a runner in the lane that misses. But it was a quality look that broke down Boston's defense which allowed Trey Burke to slip in for the putback.
This looked similar to what the Wizards did in 2015, when they were supremely confident they'd figured out how to deal with troublesome matchups with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Korver in the playoffs. This is just one regular-season game, and certainly Boston will make adjustments when they meet for a final time March 20 at TD Garden to determine the season series.These concepts regarding Thomas, however, still should apply.