It’s hard to imagine there are any Celtics fans who aren’t excited about Isaiah Thomas after his first two games in green. At the same time as the Celtics acquired Thomas for next to nothing, they also lost their leading scorer and rebounder in Jared Sullinger.
In Sullinger’s abscense, the Celtics have lost in Sacramento 109-101, went to overtime in Los Angeles against the Lakers before losing 118-111, and beat the Suns in Phoenix, 115-110. The game in Sacramento was difficult because Tayshaun Prince and Marcus Thornton had already departed from the team, yet their replacements had not yet arrived.
The game in Los Angeles, Isaiah’s first as a Celtic, could easily have been a win if it wasn’t for some sketchy officiating leading to the dismissal of both Thomas and rookie point guard (and defensive terror) Marcus Smart before the extra time even began. For this reason the Celtics were outscored 12-5 in the five minute overtime period.
Monday against the Phoenix Suns, IT’s former team, marked one of the Celtics best first halves of the season. They were firing on all cylinders, entering the break leading 67-50. Some sloppy play from the Celtics in the fourth quarter made this one close, but fortunately Thomas was there to save the day. Despite 5 turnovers, at least one of which was at an extremely inopportune moment, Thomas scored eight points in the final two minutes of the game, including a 4-point play to seal the deal.
It looked like Isaiah’s competitive nature and a chip on his shoulder playing against his former team willed him to lead his new team to victory.
“It felt good to beat the team that traded you away,” Thomas told Jose M. Romero of 90.9 WBUR. “I just love the big moment. I want to be the hero.”
Ideally, IT and the Celtics will carry their momentum in to Wednesday’s game against the 10-45 New York Knicks. This will also mark Thomas’s debut at TD Garden with the Celtics, where he is sure to receive a warm welcome from the numerous fans he has won over with his pair of passionate 21 point performances.
While Marcus Smart has struggled over the last few games, perhaps fearing he will lose his starting spot to Thomas, fellow guard and childhood friend Avery Bradley has thrived as of late. Bradley has stepped up into a bigger scoring role since the departure of Jeff Green, but he has been on a role since the All-Star break. After scoring 28 against Sacramento and 20 against the Lakers, Bradley put up 23 points against Phoenix on 8-14 shooting, including being 3-4 from behind the arc. On top of that, Bradley tacked on 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and a career-high 6 steals. His statistics certainly imply an appealing chemistry in the making between him and Thomas.
While Tyler Zeller has been taking the majority of minutes at the center position, reaping the benefits of Isaiah’s slick pick-and-roll dimes, this will only be the case for another game or two, hopefully. Let us not forget the young Kelly Olynyk, who has been battling back from an ankle injury which occurred prior to the All-Star Break. The re-implementation of Olynyk in to the lineup will make the Celtics lineup an even bigger scoring threat.
Not only is Kelly capable of generating (and hitting) 3-point shots all day, he can also drive to the hoop. He is not the monster at the rim that the Celtics need at center, but he certainly has his upside. Consider this; when Kelly Olynyk is standing at the perimeter, where he is a legitimate scoring threat, that is two less players (Olynyk and his defender) clogging the lane for Smart, Bradley, or Thomas. With the way that Thomas, and as of late, Smart, have been getting to the hoop, Boston fans should be very excited to see what they can do with Kelly Olynyk back in the lineup, spacing out the floor.
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