The Washington Wizards have played a lot more physical against Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas after he dropped 53 points on them in Game 2 of their second-round NBA playoff series.
This strategy has worked well for the Wizards, who have held Thomas to 32 points over the last two games combined. Washington won both contests, including a 121-102 Game 4 victory at home to even the series Sunday night.
Thomas scored 19 points in Game 4, and just two in the last 32:59 of play. He didn’t blame the referees for Boston’s loss, but he wasn’t pleased with how the game was officiated, particularly against him.
“They were very physical. The refs were allowing them to hold and grab, and do all those things,” Thomas told reporters after the game, per CLNS. “Especially in that third quarter, I might have hit the ground five or six straight times. And I’m not the one that likes hitting the ground. I think it’s got to be called differently.
“I’m not saying that’s the reason why we lost. They went on a 26-0 run, and we can’t have that on the road. But I can’t allowed to be held and grabbed every pin down, every screen and I don’t even shoot one free throw. I play the same way each and every night, so I mean, that has to change. They also paid a lot more attention to me. They didn’t allow me to get any open looks after the first, or a little bit of the second quarter. As a team we got to do a better job of figuring that out and taking advantage of what they’re doing to us.”
The officiating wasn’t even one of the top three issues for the C’s in Game 4. Washington took 27 free throws to Boston’s 24. The 26-0 run was the turning point in the game. The Celtics looked completely lost during that entire run and never recovered.
Thomas also didn’t attack the basket enough to draw fouls. Eight of his 14 shot attempts came from beyond five feet from the basket. Six of his attempts were from 3-point range.
If the Wizards are going to trap Thomas and double team him, other Celtics need to get open and knock down shots. Two of those players are Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley, who shot a combined 1-for-8 from beyond the arc in Game 4.
Still, Thomas must play better for the Celtics to have a chance at winning this series. And that means consistently attacking the basket and forcing the refs to punish Washington’s physical play. Not only should that strategy provide the Celtics with points, it likely will slow down the fast-paced tempo the Wizards love to employ.
Thumbnail photo via Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports Images