BOSTON — No one would have batted an eye had Isaiah Thomas turned in a poor performance in the Boston Celtics’ Game 1 matchup against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday night.
Thomas took the TD Garden floor just one day after his 22-year-old sister tragically was killed in a single-car crash in Washington early Saturday morning.
But just when you thought Thomas ran out of amazing moments, the All-Star point guard delivered another one Sunday night.
Although the Celtics ultimately were edged by the Chicago Bulls 106-102, Thomas turned in a tremendous performance despite the circumstances. He posted a game-high with 33 points and nearly led the Celtics to a Game 1 win in their first-round NBA playoff series.
Boston head coach Brad Stevens praised Thomas, both the basketball player and the person, after his amazing performance
“He was incredible,” Stevens said. “He’s an amazing, amazing player and an amazing person. Days won’t get easier for him, but somehow he plays like that.”
Thomas’ backcourt mate Avery Bradley also was blown away by the 5-foot-9 guard’s gutsy performance Sunday night, and preached the team must continue to be by his side.
“Isaiah is family to me,” Bradley said. “I know it’s tough for him. It says he’s a true competitor. I know (Sunday night) he was playing for his sister, he was playing for his family. We appreciate that as teammates. He is just an amazing basketball player and a better person, so I’m happy with the way he played (Sunday night), and we just need to continue to fight for him.”
Thomas was present for Game 1, but Stevens understands family issues could take precedence in the coming days. The Celtics head coach insisted the team will have no influence on Thomas’ actions and that each decision would be left for him to decide.
“Whatever he needs to do, he needs to do, and we’ll help in any way. If he needs to and wants to stay here, then we’ll be here surrounding him. And if he wants to go to Seattle, then he should go to Seattle. It’s his call, and it should be.”
Here are some other notes from Celtics-Bulls.
–Jimmy Butler made a strong case for being the best player on the floor. The All-Star guard paced the Bulls with 30 points, 23 of which coming in the second half. While the Celtics did a good job of containing Butler in the first two quarters, they had no answer for him in the latter stages of the game.
–Chicago’s victory was due in large part to its domination on the glass. The Bulls grabbed a remarkable 53 rebounds, while Boston only brought in 36. Robin Lopez led the team in boards with 11, to go along with his 14 points. Given Chicago’s significant advantage in size, this could be cause for concern for the Celtics moving forward.
–Al Horford turned in a respectable performance for the Celtics. The center logged 19 points to go along with eight assists and seven rebounds. However, Horford only pulled down one board in the second half at a time when Boston desperately needed them.
–Jae Crowder was underwhelming for Boston. He only converted on four of his 12 shots from the field, which included going just 1-for-5 from beyond the arc. While it just was one game, the Celtics will need Crowder to bolster his stat line for the rest of the series, as the team cannot rely on Thomas to carry the offense by himself throughout the playoffs.
–Bobby Portis was tremendous coming off the bench for Chicago. In his first career playoff game, the young forward dropped 19 points, which was second on the team behind Butler. He, like Butler and Lopez, also had success on the glass to the tune of nine rebounds.
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