“Isaiah…the way you play the game of basketball, you could become a Celtics legend” – Danny Ainge
Do you remember the best basketball performance you ever had? When you were truly in a zone where everything you threw up went in? I do. My career high is a measly 27 points and although it happened over a decade ago I still remember every shot, and more importantly I can distinctly remember the feeling. My threes felt like layups, there was never any doubt in my mind that not only was I going to make the basket, but I wasn’t even going to hit the rim. Basically how Nick Young plays. I’d imagine if you played competitive basketball you probably have similar memories. It’s a feeling you can’t really describe, but know when you’re experiencing it. Take a second and relive your glory days before we get any further.
Ok now realize that as in the zone as you were, as big as the basket looked to you, we have never EVER experienced what Isaiah Thomas did for 12 minutes last night. I’d say that shit only happens in 2k, but even your video game system is laughing at you. That fourth quarter, those shots, that performance, was truly one of the most impressive things not only in Boston Celtics history, but NBA history. That isn’t hyperbole either, that’s how ridiculous it was. Now it’s a whole different issue that the Celtics desperately needed one of the greatest performances of all time in order to beat the lowly Heat, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
I could take this opportunity to pound my chest as the leader of Team Isaiah, but that’s petty. Last night was so impressive I’d rather waste my energy celebrating, and taking a closer look as to how on earth that even happened. What a way to close out a brutal month, let’s get started.
– It’s always important to look at performances like this in the bigger picture. Does one singular game change that much for the Celtics? Not really. They are still miles and miles away from the overall goal, but every once in a while you have to stop and take a look around and realize things are pretty fucking good. I saw this graphic come up on my TL last night so it’s where I want to start
Right off the bat, in order for a player to be considered an impact player, he has to you know, make a positive impact. You might have your own personal preference on what you want that impact player to look like, but at the end of the day when you are beginning a rebuilding process you want to bring in players that are going to help you turn around your franchise. I said it last night, but had the Celtics lost that game, Isaiah’s performance means absolute dick, and I share that same thought for his overall time in Boston thus far. The individual efforts are great, but if they aren’t helping your team win, then they do nothing for me. Well, it’s pretty hard to argue with the impact that Isaiah has had on this franchise. From over 40 games under .500 to nearly 30 games over. When Trader Danny pulled off the steal of the century to get Isaiah, I’m not sure any of us saw this type of turnaround coming. Not even me.
By no means does this show that Isaiah can carry a Celtics team to a title by himself, virtually zero current NBA players can do that. But it does show me he is a crucial part to the puzzle. What impresses me most about this turnaround is it’s not as if Isaiah is part of some Super Team trio, as he’s gotten better, he’s made the players around him better as well. Avery Bradley is having a career year all around, Jae has never shot the ball better, and Horford, while some might be frustrated at times, is having one of his better offensive seasons since joining forces with Isaiah. That’s important. I want my team’s best player to help elevate everyone around him. To a MUCH lesser degree, it’s sort of like what KG did when he came to Boston. He helped change the culture. Since Isaiah has put on that Celtics jersey, he has helped bring this team back to that same type of culture KG left, and that’s winning.
Next, you hope that your impact player shows up in the biggest moments, when the games are in the balance. Can he step up and have the balls to not only take, but make the big shot at the big moment. Well, you know the numbers. Isaiah lives for these moments, and he comes through time and time again. I say it all the time, but think back to when the Big 3 were traded if someone told you that the Celtics would obtain a player who avg 27/6 (which leads all players in the East btw), is one of the best fourth quarter players in the league, and will bring you this sort of turnaround. We’d all be fucking pumped. Well, it’s happening.
Aside from the W/L impact, you can look all over the place to see where Isaiah has helped improve the Celtics. For example, your Boston Celtics are currently #1 in the league in P&R offense (includes passes), which tells me the vision that Danny & Co had with Isaiah and Horford is becoming a reality.
Which brings me to last night’s performance. I mentioned it was one of the greatest showings in Boston Celtics history, and boy was it. His 29 points marked the highest ever in any quarter by any Celtic ever, his 52 points put him 4th on the all time Celtics single game scoring list behind a couple of good players named Bird and McHale. Those 52 points marked the highest total at home in the TD Garden Era. Yup, Pierce didn’t even get there. Isaiah’s 29 point fourth quarter only trailed Wilt’s 31 for the most in NBA HISTORY. So how did it happen? Well, first as is tradition, we will enjoy his performance in its entirety.
The closer you look at some of those shots during that historic fourth quarter run, the more you see why it isn’t that surprising. What makes Isaiah so damn impressive is his ability despite coming off a screen, or a move off the dribble, he make sues that his shoulders are ALWAYS square to the basket when he shoots. Here are a couple examples of that
Remember when I talked about being in the zone? This three right here is when I first said to myself holy shit
It’s this area that in my opinion Isaiah’s size is actually an advantage for him. He wastes almost no motion, and with all the high screens the Celtics run for him, it plays a huge part of why he’s able to attack the basket like he does. When your body is squared up like that it gives you so many offensive options, and sometimes we’ll see Isaiah pullup, sometimes we’ll see him take it to a floater, or sometimes we’ll see him go all the way to the rim for a layup. The made shots are certainly impressive, but it’s his offensive mechanics that make it happen.
And just for good measure before we keep going, we need to relive that last three one last time. At this point I’m not even sure Isaiah felt himself shoot the ball that’s how enfuego he was
We still need to see what Isaiah can do in the playoffs with a healthy team before we can truly judge his impact as a Celtic, but I cannot think of a better start.
– Perhaps lost in all the Isaiah dominance, was the night of Al Horford. After an egg against CLE, this was a big game for Horford because it’s not as if players like Whiteside are a joke. One of his better offensive performances of the season, I’ll take 8-12 (3-6) 6 rebounds 4 assists any day of the week. Some might get annoyed with how frequently Horford picks and pops to the perimeter, but I see that as a valuable weapon. Not only does it create tons of space which is crucial to Isaiah driving, but he can knock down the outside shot. It appears Al has worked his way out of that brutal like 8-20 stretch he had a few games ago from deep, and I can’t stress enough how much better he makes this team. Last night was a nice combination of an inside/outside game, and boy did he need it. Does this game excuse his pathetic rebounding effort from the other night? No, not even a little, but it does give you a glimpse as to what can be possible with him as a piece. Key there is “a piece”, that doesn’t mean that he has to be THE piece.
– With Avery out I was excited to see the kids play and for the most part they were pretty good. Rozier played 21 minutes after basically a week of DNP-CDs, and I thought he did an OK job of staying in control. His numbers aren’t anything special (2 points 5 rebounds), but you gotta start somewhere.
The real excitement came from the anticipation of Jaylen Brown minutes. In his 15 minutes the rookie went 3-4 and that’s all fine and good, but it was this play that rushed the Green Kool Aid down south
Please please please please please please give Jaylen minutes Brad, myself and Green Teamers everywhere BEG of you.
– I can’t not mention it, Gerald Green continues to be the gift that keeps on giving. Some games it’s instant offense, other games like last night, it’s him ordering fucking hot chocolate during a game. Hot chocolate? Has to be the most random bench order since Khalid El-Amin snuck a hotdog in.
– Most importantly, the Celtics avoided DISASTER. Had they lost to this MIA team, a team also playing on a B2B that had lost 6 of 7, it would have been the type of loss that sticks with a team no doubt. I don’t really care that they didn’t have Dragic, the Heat shot about a billion% from the field, and the Celtics had to come through MULTIPLE times in the clutch in order to pull it out. That’s the type of character building win that can spark a run, and seeing as how they play basically the entire month of January at home, this is entirely possible.
– The Celtics are now 16-10 since Walter came into all our lives. I’m not saying, but I’m saying #ThePeoplesPuppy
– It would be unfair for me to say this was a perfect game, because I can’t get past how pathetic the Celtics defense was. A game after CLE shot lights out, MIA came in and put up 53/39% splits. They started the third quarter on an 11-2 run shooting 80%. The Celtics are going absolutely nowhere if they don’t figure out what the hell is happening on defense. Some of it is shit luck, there were several times the Celts did a good job contesting, but this was almost the exact same story as the last time these two teams played. The Celts second half defense was abysmal, and the reality is the aren’t going to get 52 points from Isaiah on a consistent basis. Not having Avery definitely plays a huge role in that, but that’s no excuse for some of the lazy effort we saw.
– The second unit production of MIA is everything I stay up late and night and dream the Celtics can be.
– I’m sorry, but this was not Kelly Olynyk’s night. When things start off rocky for Olynyk you can see it on his face right away. He presses. When he does that he goes into Hesitant Olynyk, and when that happens he is the opposite of useful, in fact it hurts you. For me it’s not a physical issue with Kelly, he’s 100% healthy, it’s entirely in between his ears.
– It may be nitpicking, but I still cannot stand when the Celtics (mostly Isaiah) jump to pass. We saw it early lead to a backcourt call, and I can understand in certain situations it has to happen, but I’m seeing it way too frequently. While Isaiah is the main culprit, you’re starting to see Rozier do it more and more, and that’s just asking for trouble. Every single player learns at maybe age 7 that this is a bad basketball play, please stop.
– Nope, not today. Not while I’m still drunk as fuck off Kool Aid
And with that a brutal December and 2016 come to a close. The Celtics currently sit at 20-14, just 3 games behind TOR for the two spot and are 7-3 in their last 10. In my mind exactly where we all hoped they would be at this time of year. Now healthy we’re starting to see a good sample size of how this team looks, and it’s pretty fucking good. Again, beating the Heat doesn’t mean much, but after the brutal start filled with injuries and inconsistent play, it’s nice to see the Celtics start to round into shape. Happy New Year everyone, and God fucking bless Isaiah Thomas.
20 down 32 to go