BOSTON – Marcus Smart said it’s all about who punches first. After the Washington Wizards earned the first knockout of the fight, tossing the Celtics into a 16-0 hole early in the first quarter, it looked like a TKO for John Wall and company when they knocked out Isaiah Thomas’s tooth halfway through the first quarter.
Isaiah Thomas's field goal percentage since losing a tooth: 100 PERCENT pic.twitter.com/Z8wGgPaJj8— The Ringer (@ringer) April 30, 2017
That was a mistake. Thomas drilled a pair of threes to force a Wizards timeout and put the Celtics back in the game. By the time he returned from the locker room Kelly Olynyk had pulled the Celtics back to within four, and Thomas was ready to take over.
The Celtics hit back with a flurry of jabs and hooks, eventually winning Game 1 of their second-round NBA Playoffs series 123-111. It was an incredible turnaround sparked by who other than Isaiah Thomas, who spent the previous day speaking at his sister Chyna’s funeral and then making the cross-country trip back to Boston in time for the game.
“I got in at 4 am,” Thomas said. “I tried to get as much sleep as I could on the flight and then when I got home this morning. It’s tough, but its the playoffs, so there are no excuses. I decided to play and I just tried to give it all for my team and we came out with the win.”
As if he didn’t have enough pain and suffering to get through, the knocked tooth was icing on the cake he won’t be able to eat for a few weeks after he gets his root canal.
“It just bothers me to talk. My tongue goes right through my tooth. I’ve never had dental problems so this is new. I’ve always had teammates that I’ve always clowned them about their teeth being out and now I’m one of them. Hopefully we can replace it as soon as possible.”
Avery Bradley said it gives him an edge.
“He looks a little tougher,” Bradley said. “I told him he should go with that look for the rest of the playoffs.”
Even the Stevens family got their fun in.
“He and my seven-year-old daughter just gave each other the open tooth smile,” Stevens said. “He made both threes right after it fell out. So, maybe that tooth was holding him back a little.”
Thomas became the sixth Celtic in the past 30 years to register at least 30 points and nine assists in a playoff game per BBall Reference, joining Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, John Bagley, Dennis Johnson, and Larry Bird.
Isaiah dug his team out what looked like an early death sentence, a familiar level of adversity that he has defeated all season.
“We know it’s not always going to be peaches and cream all the time. We’ve always played with our backs against the wall,” he said. “Today we definitely didn’t want to be down 16-0 but it happens and we just locked in even more. We settled down, we executed on offense and we got stops and that’s how we got back into the game.”