WALTHAM, Mass. — Isaiah Thomas proved last month that he has the ability to almost singlehandedly win games for the Boston Celtics. That’s not what he needs to do right now.
One day after Thomas struggled in his return from a bruised lower back, scoring four points in a 93-86 loss to the Miami Heat at TD Garden, other members of the Celtics organization stressed the importance of the point guard not trying to do too much as he reacclimates himself after an eight-game absence.
?Even talking to him (Wednesday) night, he said he didn?t feel too bad physically,” head coach Brad Stevens said before Thursday’s practice session. “It was more that he just didn?t have it. We talked a little bit (Thursday) morning about some things that he can control so that he doesn?t have to worry about coming back and saving the day. He just has to worry about fitting in and being a good part of our puzzle. I think that that should take some heat off of him to (not) feel like he?s got to do a lot more than that. ”
Thomas wasn’t himself against the Heat — not entirely surprising for a guy who’d barely been able to jog for the previous two-plus weeks. He went just 2-for-7 from the floor, missed all three of his free-throw attempts and committed three turnovers in what he called one of the worst games he’s ever played.
Forward Jae Crowder, who helped lead a furious fourth-quarter rally that ultimately fell short, spoke Thursday of the need for the rest of his teammates to step up rather than wait for the hobbled Thomas to create offense on his own.
?We got stagnant with him in the game,” Crowder said. “We counted on him to try to break the defense down, as you could see, but he wasn?t feeling it. So, we?ve got to find other ways that we can attack the defense ? Evan (Turner), just get him in pick-and-rolls ? when he?s not feeling like that. Just give him a chance to gradually come back instead of forcing him into it like he was before the injury. We?ve got to work together to make him better as he makes everyone else around him better.”
It’s been a trying two weeks for Thomas, and although he says he feels well enough to play, there’s no telling when he’ll regain the explosiveness he had before his injury. Unfortunately for the Celtics, time to wait is a luxury they simply do not have at the moment.
Eleven games remain in Boston’s regular season, each one as critical as the next as the Celtics look to emerge from the crowd of playoff hopefuls huddled around the Eastern Conference bubble. With a full-strength Thomas or without one, Stevens’ club has little margin for error.
?Oh yeah,” the coach said when asked if Thomas would practice Thursday. “We all need to practice.”
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