You're a wizard Har...Isaiah? (Keith P. Smith): I had to double check Isaiah Thomas' alma mater to make sure it really was Washington and not Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, because what he does in fourth quarters is straight magic. On a night where the Celtics were undermanned and looked lethargic and the TD Garden had as much life as a morgue, Thomas dug deep into his spell book and brought the Celtics home a win. IT not only finished with 38 points, but the way he got them was enchanting. With the game in the balance, he drilled shot after shot. The smallest player on the floor played the biggest, as he so often does. He scored 20 points in the final frame on 7-12 shooting, including 3-5 from behind the arc. He's the best left-handed shooter I've ever seen on shooting while going to his right, and the lift he gets on that jumper is incredible. His ability to get to the rim, hang and work the ball over bigger players is almost as special as his jumper. It’s almost like he knows a levitation spell or something.
And you know IT had a little extra for John Wall, after Wall beat him out for Eastern Conference Player of the Week and has been getting a lot of pub for a starting nod in the All-Star game. Wall had just nine points on the night on 4-21 from the field. Thomas had that many on threes in the fourth quarter alone. Head-to-head matchups can often get a player going, and Thomas was up to the challenge tonight.
Because of Thomas's heroics and the Celtics ability to shoot the ball, they never really seem out of a game. This team has proven over and over that you can't count them out. They always seem to rally back. They don't always close the deal, but they always make it interesting. With a lot more Death Eaters to come and Cleveland sitting there as Voldemort, Boston is going to need Isaiah Thomas at his magical best to save the day for all the muggle Celtic fans.
Beef (Bill Sy): There’s bad blood between the Celtics and Wizards. Before Marcus Smart and John Wall’s dustup earlier this season, Boston swept last year’s series, winning three games by a combined 78 points and another in overtime when Jae Crowder scored on a brilliant Brad Stevens’ ATO and John Wall missed a layup to tie the game. Fast forward almost exactly a year, and Crowder and Wall are the focus again. The Celtics pulled away for a comfortable 9-point win and didn’t need any last-second heroics from either, but the two got into it at the end of the game.
Otto Porter called the Celtics “physical” and “dirty,” but I loved IT’s response: “We play hard so if hard is dirty, then I guess we are a dirty team.” Texting with a friend that’s a Wiz fan, he said, “they play borderline ‘too rough.’” Truth is, I wish that were true. The Celtics have lost their defensive identity that made them such a feared opponent last season, and it was nice to see some fire from them last night, even if it came after the buzzer.
The Celtics beat a really hot team without three of their rotation players on the second night of a back-to-back, but this won’t go down as a big win in the grand scheme of things. Ultimately, Boston is better than Washington. However, it could go a long way in re-defining the team’s identity. They’ve been winning a lot of games on finesse on this 11-3 stretch with some lights-out perimeter shooting and late-game heroics from Isaiah Thomas. But as the season rolls on and definitely when the playoffs start, they’re going to need a mental edge on their opponents. They haven’t had it against the league’s best, which has lead to collapse after collapse in crunch time. After Crowder poked Wall’s nose, Wall retaliated with a slap to Crowder’s face. Let’s hope that the entire team felt that slap, too.