Isaiah Thomas will miss the remainder of the postseason after the re-aggravation of a right femoral-acetabular impingement with labral tear, the Celtics announced Saturday.
The injury initially occurred during the third quarter of the Celtics’ March 15 game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, which forced him to miss the next two games. The injury was further aggravated in Game 6 of the Washington Wizards series last Friday.
“Isaiah has worked tirelessly to manage this injury since it first occurred,” said Celtics Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian McKeon in the press release. “The swelling increased during the first two games against Cleveland, and in order to avoid more significant long-term damage to his hip, we could no longer allow him to continue.”
Thomas did not travel to Cleveland with the team and is currently evaluating treatment options.
His bosses showed praise and support for him as the news was released, with Danny Ainge calling his season legendary and noting getting through Game 7 against Washington was heroic.
Thomas could not make it back out of the locker room to start the second half in Game 2 Friday, missing the rest of the game with a right hip strain. Thomas originally aggravated the injury in Game 6 win Washington last Friday, Danny Ainge told The Vertical’s Chris Mannix.
The Celtics were not sure if Thomas could even play in Game 7 as first reported by Mannix, which he fought through for a strong performance to send the Celtics to the conference finals.
Thomas played through the adrenaline in Game 7, scoring 29 points with 10 assists. But in Game 1 against Cleveland, something looked off. He was moving in a stiff manner that looked abnormal for him and didn’t have the same re-direction agility that has made him so unstoppable this year. He kept attacking the Cleveland defense, who appeared to be suffocating him mostly because of their superior size and power.
But with a few minutes remaining in an already disastrous first half, Thomas stepped on Kevin Love’s foot and spent the next few minutes hobbling around the floor.
He never saw the court again as the Celtics were pummeled 130-86 for their worst loss in the conference finals in franchise history. It was also their worst playoff loss in the Garden ever.
When Brad Stevens hit the podium after the Game 2 loss, he elaborated on the situation.
“He's had a nagging hip injury. He aggravated it pretty significantly on Friday in Washington Game 6, went through a bunch of different testing on Saturday and Sunday, was able to play Monday, hasn't felt great either of the two days. But today I thought he looked much different in the first half. When we went back to the locker room, our training staff and doctors got with him.”
Thomas acknowledged after Game 7 that he had been playing through some nagging injuries, although this is fairly common for a player with his usage rate this deep into the postseason. Considering the Celtics were down by an NBA record 41 points at halftime, it is a reasonable assumption that his halftime removal was motivated by resting him for the rest of the game to be less sore ahead of Game 3 Sunday.
It certainly was not his call, according to Stevens.
“He was pretty despondent not to be able to play. I mean, that guy is a tough guy, and he plays through a lot. For him to have to sit is really hard.”
"I think for IT not to play, he'd have to have one of his legs cut off or something," Green said.
Thomas had just 2 points in 18 minutes, missing all six of his shots from the field. It was the fewest points he has scored in a game since going scoreless in two seconds playing for Sacramento on November 30, 2012.
Thomas has been tortured all series, with the Cavs defense honing in on him to clog the Celtics’ offensive flow. Their high blitzes have worked well to trap him, while their hard hedges on screens have forced the ball out of his hands early. Al Horford is supposed to be the antidote to this, but the Cavs are coordinating too well.
“We do have some great perimeter defenders that take the challenge,” LeBron James told CelticsBlog in his post-game press conference. “But we also have great third-line defense as well with our front line, which communicates pick-and-roll coverages or pin-down coverages or whatever coverages and allow the guards to get up into the ball or do what they need to do to be successful versus their guards.”
With Thomas hobbled and then gone for Boston, it kills more than just their offensive system. It hurts their spirit.
"Anytime we don't have Isaiah on the court is obviously a minus for us," said Green. "You know, we need him. Just his presence, his way to compete is contagious. We need him on the floor at all times. Even if he's not on the floor, we've got to have the next-man-up mentality, which we've had for the most part all season. We just didn't have it today."
Thomas is down for the count and Boston’s hopes of coming back in this series are microscopic. With the eyes of the league and potential free agent or trade targets watching, the Celtics still have two games to prove their core values. It will be a continued stage for rookie Jaylen Brown and a chance for Marcus Smart to show the point guard skills he flashed earlier in the year on the stage where they have vanished.