Celtics Notes: Isaiah Thomas Has Rare Off Night; Playoff Picture Clears Up

Isaiah Thomas has been playing out of his mind for the better part of the last month. But on Saturday night, we finally found evidence that he’s human.

The Boston Celtics point guard had an unusually quiet night offensively against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena, scoring 16 points on 6-of-19 shooting. He made just one of his four 3-point attempts, committed four turnovers and finished with a team-worst minus-16 plus-minus in Boston’s 118-107 loss.

You might say you saw this coming, as Thomas’ streak of 17 consecutive games as the team’s leading scorer was snapped Friday in a blowout win over the Milwaukee Bucks. But the All-Star point guard still went 7 for 9 to tally 20 points and rested for much of the second half of that game.

Saturday’s effort was a bit more concerning, as Thomas, who normally makes his hay by getting into the paint and finishing strong, hit just 4 of 14 shots at the rim, according to MassLive.com’s Jay King.

“I had some turnovers that were uncharacteristic,” Thomas said, via the Celtics’ Twitter account. “… I got where I wanted when I wanted. For some reason, I couldn’t make any layups.”

Thomas’ 16 points snapped another impressive streak for the 5-foot-9 guard, who had gone 18 straight games with 20 points or more.

Of course, it’s hard to find too much fault in a guy who’s leading the team in scoring and has carried the Celtics to several wins this season. And as Boston looks ahead to the playoffs, it’s safe to say everyone still has faith in Thomas.

Click for the Celtics-Hawks Wrap>>

Let’s hit a few other notes from Celtics-Hawks:

— The Celtics’ loss added a little more clarity to the Eastern Conference playoff picture, as the Hawks moved to sole possession of the East’s No. 3 playoff seed. But there’s still hope for Boston earning home-court advantage in the playoffs.

The C’s finish with home games against the Charlotte Hornets on Monday and the Miami Heat on Wednesday. If they win out, they can clinch the No. 4 seed. If they beat the Hornets on Monday and Miami loses to the Orlando Magic on Sunday or the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday, they could secure the fourth spot before their season finale against the Heat on Wednesday.

Avery Bradley adopted a simpler mindset after Saturday’s loss:

— Boston used a heavy dose of small ball Saturday. Starting big man Jared Sullinger logged just 10 minutes of playing time, as head coach Brad Stevens replaced him with shooting guard Marcus Smart to start the second half, bumping Jae Crowder into the frontcourt along with Amir Johnson.

The move actually had some success, as the Celtics held Atlanta to 51 points in the second half after the Hawks dropped 67 in the first. But their small lineup opened things up for Hawks power forward Paul Millsap, who went off for a season-high 31 points and 16 rebounds.

— A disturbing trend continued Saturday for the Celtics, who struggled once again from the free throw line.

Boston attempted 24 free throws to Atlanta’s 11 but made just 16 for a 67 percent rate. The Celtics also missed eight free throws on Friday night (30 for 38) against the Bucks.

The C’s are one of the better free throw-shooting teams in the league, owning a 78.8 percentage that’s sixth-best in the NBA. Free throws are crucial in postseason play, so Boston had better hope these last two games simply are an anomaly.

Thumbnail photo via Jason Getz/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) knocks the ball away from Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder (17) in the first quarter of their game at Philips Arena.

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