Isaiah Thomas, Celtics seek date in Eastern Conference Finals
Down 2-0 to the Chicago Bulls, the Boston Celtics seemed destined for an early exit from the 2016-17 playoffs. Then Isaiah Thomas exploded, scoring at will against the Bulls and Washington Wizards, and Boston hasn’t lost since.
Thomas has had to endure personal tragedy in dealing with the death of his sister. The court has turned into his sanctuary.
In grabbing a 2-0 series lead over the Wizards, Thomas erupted for 53 points in 45 minutes. In crunch-time, the Wizards knew he was shooting the ball, and they had no answer on defense for the 5-foot-9 point guard. Thomas drained three-pointers, drove to the rim, and pulled up for contested jumpers.
Thomas has shifted the narrative from that 2-0 hole against the Bulls. Since the Celtics own the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick, many wondered how No. 1-seeded Boston would re-tool its team in the offseason. Thomas, beloved in Boston, rode the support from the Boston faithful and put the Celtics on his back.
Thomas finished one point shy of the Celtics’ franchise record for scoring in a playoff game, which was set by franchise great John Havlicek with 54 points. "It’s nice to be in Celtics history with all the great players," Thomas said. "But until you win a championship, you can’t consider yourself a great player. That’s what it’s all about."
The Celtics will have their work cut out for them, however. Even though the team is up 2-0 against Washington, the Wizards have nearly been the Celtics’ equal. In Game 2, John Wall scored 40 points himself. Wall is averaging 30 PPG and 14.5 APG in the series.
Thomas is shooting 66 percent when matched up against Wall. In the series, he is averaging 43 PPG and 6.5 APG–looking every bit like an MVP candidate. In the NBA, one player can truly make a difference. Against the Wizards, Thomas has stood the tallest.
If the Celtics can stave off the Wizards’ push, they will likely face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Should the Celtics advance, they will own home-court advantage by virtue of finishing the regular season 53-29.
With draft picks still to come from the Nets, the Celtics are ahead of their long-term schedule. The team should only build upon its success this season.