BOSTON — A day after speaking at his sister Chyna’s funeral, Isaiah Thomas is back at the Garden and will start for the Boston Celtics in Gamed 1 of their second round NBA Playoffs series against the Washington Wizards.
“I've had a lot of talks with him over the past few weeks,” Celtics coach Brad sevens said of Thomas. “My discussion with him [in the past 24 hours] wasn’t about basketball, obviously. It was about how hard it is to talk at a funeral.”
Thomas is back, but the emotional challenge won’t disappear.
“[This is] as he calls it, his sanctuary and he’s going to have really tough days,” Stevens said. “That’s not going to stop.”
Stevens was asked about all of the sports science implemented throughout the year and how that flies out the window with a situation like Isaiah’s. Stevens lamented that those precautions are taken all year to prepare for these challenging moments, but it’s not the physical toll he’s worried about.
“I think the emotional side of things is probably more challenging than the physiological side of things.”
This doesn’t make a difference to Wizards coach Scott Brooks, who knows how deadly Thomas can be.
"I think we all know what he’s able to do and how he’s able to do it is just incredible,” Brooks said. “He’s one of the best players in the league.”
HOT CHOCOLATE STILL STARTING
Stevens announced that he will stick with Gerald Green in the starting lineup, an adjustment that worked to perfection int he first round against the Chicago Bulls. The Wizards matchup somewhat similarly to Chicago, making the lineup viable for at least another round.
“Obviously, we put a lot of time and thought into that,” Stevens said. “I think the biggest thing is our ability to spread the floor. I felt like we did a good job flying around defensively.”
That lineup allows the Celtics to maximize their speed and athleticism while still being effective on defense. Green has stayed hot throughout the four games he has started, being a scoring spark plug in the first half in each win.
“We’re small, but we’re pretty athletic in that group and we were pretty quick to balls, whether they were rebounds or loose balls or whatever they may be,” Stevens said.
This means Amir Johnson will stay on the bench. He was a staple in the starting lineup all year, but got the plug after Game 2 of the Bulls series. The Celtics were being killed on the glass and Stevens wanted to go small to pull the center Robin Lopez away from the rim and keep the defense spread out. Johnson could see some time in this series, as Washington has more of an interior presence than Chicago with Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris and their hard charging guards. But Stevens admires Amir’s willingness to sit on the bench and be the consummate teammate he has always been.
“The other factor that cannot be understated is how Amir has accepted having to be available off the bench,” Stevens said. “He’s been the best teammate you can ask for.”
Those were the same words constantly brought up regarding Gerald Green throughout the season. If there’s one thing Stevens and do well — and there are probably a billion of them — it’s keep everyone happy no matter how much they see the floor.