Celtics Notes: Isaiah Thomas Relishes Freedom; Jae Crowder Is C’s Pitbull

BOSTON — Even after blowing a 26-point lead to the Golden State Warriors, the Celtics still found themselves with a chance to force overtime in the final seconds of Sunday’s tilt at TD Garden.

After two Stephen Curry free throws gave Golden State a three-point lead with 10 seconds to play, Celtics coach Brad Stevens opted not to use his final timeout. He instead trusted the judgement of point guard Isaiah Thomas, who spotted up for an open 3-pointer on the ensuing possession but couldn’t connect.

A rebound and two more freebies by Curry put the bow on a 106-101 win for the Warriors.

“Our two best shooters are smaller, and (the Warriors) have great length,” Stevens explained after the game, referring to Thomas and fellow guard Avery Bradley. “So, I just felt like 94 feet was going to be better than 25 feet. And I just asked Isaiah, ‘Would you rather take it length of the floor, or would you rather us try to set something up where the guy that you want to get a shot, the other team knows you want to get one or two of those guys a shot and it’s going to be a lot more difficult?’ And he told me he’d rather go length of the floor.

“… I wasn’t going to do anything that would’ve gotten us a better look. It was a great look.”

“I walked into a wide-open three.” Thomas added. “It just didn’t fall. Tyler (Zeller) set a great screen. And I got hope. I thought it was going in. It was on line, it just didn’t fall. That happens.”

Although the outcome wasn’t what either was hoping for, Stevens’ trust in Thomas resonated with the trade-deadline acquisition.

“That means a lot,” said Thomas, who led all Celtics scorers with 20 points in the loss. “I’ve said it probably every game, every day, that he gives us the freedom to just play, and that gives players confidence to just go out there and just want to do whatever it takes to win. He asked me what I thought we should do and I told him, and he believed in me. The shot just didn’t fall, but we got a good look.

— Thomas is renowned for his ability to torment opponents off high screens. Warriors coach Steve Kerr raved about this skill during his pregame news conference but noted that officials’ reticence to call carrying violations in these situations definitely puts defenders at a disadvantage.

— Forward Jae Crowder failed to reach double figures for the first time in five games, finishing with nine points despite taking a career-high 17 shots. He made his presence felt in other ways, though: His 17 rebounds also represented a career high.

“He’s just a bull,” Thomas said. “He’s a pitbull. A guy that’s not going to back down from anybody.”

— Crowder and Thomas are key cogs in the super-small Celtics lineup that enjoyed great success this week in wins over the New York Knicks and Charlotte Hornets. This time around, however, it was the Warriors who benefitted from going small.

Kerr used Harrison Barnes at the four and Draymond Green at the five for much of the second half, and Golden State proceeded to outscore Boston 57-36 over the final two quarters. Green did not leave the court in the second half and was highly productive, scoring 11 of his 14 points and grabbing seven of his 11 rebounds.

— Jonas Jerebko took a few minutes before the game to talk about the state of basketball in his native Sweden. The forward said hoops is “like, the fifth or sixth biggest sport” over there, behind, among others, floorball.

What’s floorball, you ask? This is floorball:

Jerebko also mentioned that during the year he spent playing in northern Sweden, the sun sometimes wouldn’t come up for a full month at a time. Sounds like a blast.

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images

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