BOSTON - What if I told you that Isaiah Thomas would destroy Damian Lillard Wednesday night?
It was a rare 30 for 30 for Thomas, as the All-Star led the way with 30 points in 30 minutes in the Celtics' blowout win over the surging Blazers. The Blazers were 17-4 in their last 21 games, but were going for the sweep of a four game in five-night gauntlet.
The Blazer's circadian lighting in the locker room was good enough to get them out to a hot start in the first. But their momentum fell off the face of the earth as Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart dominated the first half.
Thomas was having a ball, scoring with his right hand and throwing pinpoint passes through traffic. Thomas' progression as a point guard in Stevens' system has been significantly evident in the past few weeks, as he is rifling no-look passes through traffic to shooters in their expected spots.
And then there were the floating finger rolls. Oh the glorious finger rolls.
The Blazers trotted out one of the most highly touted backcourts in the league, but it was their misfortune that Isaiah Thomas is still carrying that ubiquitous chip on his shoulder.
"Teams, players, the NBA, they still don't respect us. And we know that," the All-Star said. "We go into every game with a chip on our shoulder knowing that we have to earn the respect, and we have to earn what we get, and take what's ours."
That's the talk that has Brad Stevens loving life with his former sixth man turned All-Star.
"The thing I respect the most out of Isaiah is he's got a chip on his shoulder no matter who he's playing against," Coach of the Month Stevens said.
Isaiah knows why they can't get no respect.
"I guess we've got no superstar," he said wryly. "No ‘foundation player,' right?"
Isaiah shined against Damian Lillard, whose solid point total is relatively meager for him with his recent dominance.
"They got after us. I think it's that simple," Lillard said.
Thomas dug in and snuck under Lillard and company's epidermis. They blew them out in the second pushed them into submission into the third.
"No doubt," Thomas said when asked if he enjoys getting under his opponent's skin. "I'm from the land of Gary Payton, the best trash talker of all time."
The third quarter played out like a raid, with the Celtics seizing all the Blazers' assets in 12 minutes of humiliation.
"We flew around about as well as we have all year in the third quarter," Stevens said.
Of all the guys to do all the flying, it was Jared Sullinger who put his mark on the Celtics' 30-12 massacre in the third.
The momentum started with his spin to slam in the late second quarter to tie the game.
Jared Sullinger shows no mercy in the paint! pic.twitter.com/nUMAAulQur— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 3, 2016
But then he took over in the third.
It started with a Sullinger block on Vonleh that led to transition with Isaiah and Sullinger running down court. Thomas threw an awkward alley-oop to Sully, who caught it on the ground and used his soft touch to hit the layup.
Sullinger came back down and got a chance to run a post-up from 15 feet out. He backed down Meyers Leonard and drew a foul on a sweeping hook shot that went down.
A minute later Sullinger held down position on the boards, using his left arm to anchor Noah Vonleh to the ground as Sullinger caught a long rebound. Sully then stumbled back and popped off a bank shot that somehow went in.
The Celtics never looked back as that basket kickstarted a 21-4 run that blew the game open.
Sullinger threw a touchdown to Avery Bradley for good measure too.
The blowout was significant enough for the Celtics' rookie class to close out the game, with Terry Rozier scoring his first points since 1/24 against the Sixers and Jordan Mickey smacking another block for the highlight reel. It was the most minutes Rozier has played since his 12 minutes in Orlando on November 29.
If only poor R.J. Hunter could get some love...
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