After mourning the death of his sister Chyna just one day prior to Game 1, Isaiah Thomas showed courage by suiting up and putting on a masterful performance for the Boston Celtics. Thomas totaled 33 points, six assists, and five rebounds in a 106-102 loss to the Chicago Bulls. Considering the circumstances, it’s impossible not to respect Thomas as both a human being and athlete for dominating in a game that he didn’t necessarily have to play in. Yet, as much praise as Thomas should receive for his performance, his teammates deserve an equal amount of criticism for playing so uninspired against the Bulls. As the No. 1 seed, Boston was expected to trample Chicago, or at least secure the victory on their home floor. Instead, they left some to question if they can even make it out the first round.
Isaiah Thomas often looked like a one-man show on offense for long stretches in Game 1. His team’s inability to score without him on the court was a major reason why they lost, and will continue to be a detriment to this team in this first round. In the 10 minutes that Thomas did not play, the Celtics were outscored by 16 points. They only managed three assists on four made field goals in those 10 minutes. In the four minutes and nine seconds Thomas sat during the first half, the Celtics went scoreless.
Though it has only been one game, the Celtics need to find a way to get other guys going. Isaiah Thomas may be great offensively, but he is not a superhero. There is no reason why his team only shot 25% from the field when he was off the court, and there is no excuse for the Celtics having a -65.1 net rating* when Thomas went to the bench.
Unfortunately for the Celtics, these trends aren’t new. In the 76 regular season games that Thomas played in this season, the Celtics had an offensive rating of 113.6**. This number dropped down to 99 when he went to the bench, a net differential of 14.6. Not only did the Celtics score less without Thomas, but they were less efficient as well, managing only 42.1% shooting from the field and a true shooting percentage of 51.8%***.
Boston’s stagnation on offense had influenced other areas in Game 1. They gave up a whopping 20 offensive rebounds to a more aggressive Bulls team. The Celtics haven’t been a good rebounding team by any stretch of the imagination this season, but losing the rebounding battle 36-53 is indefensible. The rebounding is a problem, and Celtics forward Al Horford knows this is an area where his team could use improvement.
“We needed to do a good job of [rebounding], and we didn’t. I’m very eager to go back and look at the game and see what kind of things we could do better. We need to be able to hold them to one shot.”
In short, the Celtics cannot continue to rely so heavily upon Isaiah “Mr. Fourth Quarter” Thomas if they want to win the title. They have impactful players such as Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and Al Horford, all players who could easily change the course of this series. If the Celtics want to prove why they are the No. 1 seed, they can’t stand around on offense while Isaiah Thomas throws on his cape to save the day. It takes a collective effort, from the starters to the bench, to compete on a nightly basis in the playoffs. If there are no adjustments made soon, the Celtics could face an early exit.
Game 2 of this series is set to tip April 18 at 8 pm EST on TNT.
*Net Rating: the difference between offensive rating and defensive rating
**Offensive Rating: points scored per 100 possessions
***True Shooting Percentage: a calculation of field goal percentage if free throws and three-pointers were accounted for
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