BOSTON — Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas did his homework ahead of Game 7 of his team’s Eastern Conference semifinals series with the Washington Wizards.
His studying paid off, as the Celtics overpowered the Wizards in the fourth quarter en route to a 115-105 victory on Monday night at TD Garden. Thomas was sensational in the contest, scoring 29 points to go along with 12 assists.
So what went into IT’s preparation for Game 7? Studying tape of one of the greatest players in Celtics franchise history.
“I thought about it a lot,” Thomas said. “All day and night I watched Paul Pierce vs. LeBron James and how special that was, two superstars going at it, guarding each other and it was a historic game. I definitely did my studying and I knew it was going to be a big game tonight, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy at all and we came out on top.”
The game Thomas is referring to is Game 7 of the 2008 Eastern Conference semifinals between the Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers. Pierce (41 points) and James (45 points) went toe-to-toe throughout the game, which Boston eventually won 97-92.
Nine years later, Thomas now has his chance to battle James and the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals. Boston is the overwhelming underdog heading into the series, but Thomas is used to people counting out his team.
“We know it’s going to be tough, but at this point, anything can happen and we really believe it,” Thomas said of the upcoming series. “They didn’t give us a chance in this series, they didn’t give us a chance when we were down 2-0 in Chicago. We got the No. 1 seed and they didn’t give us a chance. They don’t ever give us a chance we just keep going, we don’t care about what others say.”
Here are some other notes from Celtics-Wizards.
— Kelly Olynyk had a career night for the Celtics, scoring 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting. He’s the first Celtics reserve player to score 25-plus points in a playoff game since Eddie House scored 31 points against the Orlando Magic in 2009.
— Bench production played a pivotal role in Game 7. The Celtics’ reserves outscored the Wizards’ by a whopping 48-5 margin, including 29-0 in the second half.
— The Celtics connected on 11 3-pointers Monday night, making them just the fourth team to hit 10-plus 3-pointers in eight straight postseason games.
— Boston did an excellent job of containing John Wall down the stretch. The Wizards point guard scored only five second-half points.
— Monday’s victory improved Boston’s franchise record to 22-8 all-time in Game 7’s, including a 19-4 mark on home court.
— The Celtics’ trip to the Eastern Conference finals is their first since 2012.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images