For Celtics’ fans hoping the third time would be the charm for Isaiah Thomas,the 2017 NBA Skills Challenge was a disappointment. The third time entrant (entering for his second time as a Celtic) failed to make it to the final round after being eliminated in the ‘smalls’ semi-final by Jae Crowder’s current arch-nemesis, Gordon Hayward.
Isaiah was the early favorite after getting off to a quick start as the King in the Fourth made short work of Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker. IT was dead-on for the passing portion of the challenge and then he made his way gingerly up the court for an easy layup and then traveled back the other way to connect with a long-range shot on just his second attempt.
Hayward, who outplayed John Wall in his first round matchup, met Isaiah in the semi-finals. Unfortunately for the ‘Little Guy’, despite having a strong start and beating Hayward to the final portion of the challenge Isaiah was unable to convert his three-point shot. After Hayward and Isaiah put up several attempts one finally went down for Hayward, eliminating Isaiah from the comp.
In the ‘Big’ bracket, Kristaps Porzingis easily edged out his closest rival Nikola Jokic, sending the New York Knick to the final portion of the challenge to face Jazz swingman Hayward. In the end Paul Flannery’s flattery of the NBA’s current crop of big men would prove prophetic as for the second year running the NBA Skills Comp (meant to favor the smaller players) was won by a front court player with finesse.
While Isaiah lacked the pep in his step needed to get the win in what IT claims will be his final appearance in the Skills Challenge he did have a fairly good reason for being a little run-down. Boston’s pint-sized point guard said he had trouble sleeping after spending the evening speaking to NBA legend Michael Jordan who apparently told Isaiah to ‘Keep killing.’
So the land-narwhal that is Kristaps Porzingis gave long-suffering New York fans at least one reason to be cheerful and Isaiah was unable bring the Skills Challenge trophy to Boston. Ultimately as Isaiah himself said, it may have been a simple matter of timing.
Isaiah Thomas says of falling in the Skills Competition, "I couldn't make the shot... I guess it wasn't the fourth quarter."— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 19, 2017