Thomas ig­nores heartache, loses tooth to lead Bos­ton to vic­tory

New Straits Times - - Sport -


ISA­IAH Thomas shook off hav­ing a tooth knocked out and the heartache of his sis­ter’s fu­neral to score 33 points on Sun­day, pow­er­ing the Bos­ton Celtics over Wash­ing­ton 123-111 in an NBA play­off game.

Thomas went 11-of-23 from the floor, 6-of-7 from the free throw line and con­trib­uted nine as­sists as the Celtics bat­tled back af­ter sur­ren­der­ing the game’s first 16 points to beat the vis­it­ing Wizards in their best-of-seven Eastern Con­fer­ence sec­ond round opener.

“It was a team ef­fort,” Thomas said. “We got down big. We didn’t give up. We didn’t put our head down. From the first guy to the last, every­body con­trib­uted and we got the win.”

The Bos­ton guard flew across the coun­try to play af­ter speak­ing on Sat­ur­day at his sis­ter Chyna’s fu­neral in Wash­ing­ton state. She was killed two weeks ago in a car ac­ci­dent.

“Bas­ket­ball, when I’m on the court, it just keeps me go­ing,” Thomas said. “I do ev­ery­thing for my sis­ter now and that’s all I can do. That’s all I can do.”

In the week­end’s only other play­off game, the Utah Jazz beat the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers 104-91 to win their first-round West­ern Con­fer­ence se­ries 4-3. They will face NBA win lead­ers and de­fend­ing con­fer­ence cham­pi­ons Golden State in the sec­ond round start­ing to­day.

Thomas napped at home and on the flight to Bos­ton and ig­nored coach Brad Stevens say­ing he didn’t have to play.

“It’s tough, but it’s the play­offs,” Thomas said. “No ex­cuses. I de­cided to play and I just tried to give it all I got for my team, and we came out with the win.”

Thomas also had his left front tooth knocked out af­ter be­ing struck in the face by an el­bow from Wash­ing­ton’s Otto Porter mid­way into the first quar­ter.

Thomas saw his tooth pop out and fall onto the court and, not miss­ing a beat, went over and picked up the tooth off the floor and later handed it to a Celtics trainer, broadly dis­play­ing a blood­ied gap-toothed smile on the bench af­ter go­ing 3-for-3 fol­low­ing the den­tal mishap and lead­ing all first-half scor­ers with 19 points.

“It just both­ers me to talk,” Thomas said. “My tongue goes right through my tooth... I’ve al­ways had team­mates that I’ve al­ways clowned them about their tooth be­ing out, and now I’m one of them. Hope­fully, we can re­place it as soon as pos­si­ble.”

The ef­fort by Thomas left both coaches awestruck.

“I don’t know (how Thomas does it). I wish I had that kind of char­ac­ter,” Stevens said.

“Just been in con­tin­ual amaze­ment the last cou­ple of weeks with his abil­ity to func­tion and ex­cel on the bas­ket­ball court. To­day is just another chap­ter of that.”

“He’s one of the big­gest win­ners in this league,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “He plays with ev­ery­thing he has. I can’t imag­ine be­ing able to do it my­self if I were in the same sit­u­a­tion.”

The Celtics outscored Wash­ing­ton 36-16 in the third quar­ter, in which they seized their first lead at 73-71 and stretched it to 95-80 en­ter­ing the fourth be­fore hold­ing off the Wizards down the stretch.

Jae Crow­der added 24 points for the Celtics while cen­tre Al Hor­ford had 21 points, 10 as­sists and nine re­bounds.

Bradley Beal scored 27 points while John Wall added 20 points and 16 as­sists.

Wash­ing­ton’s Marki­eff Mor­ris in­jured his left an­kle when he landed on Hor­ford’s foot af­ter a sec­ond-quar­ter jump shot. Mor­ris said he will play in game two to­day.

At Los An­ge­les, Utah’s Der­rick Fa­vors came off the bench to score 17 points and grab 11 re­bounds af­ter Rudy Gobert got into early foul trou­ble while Gor­don Hay­ward added 26 points as the Jazz pulled away in the third quar­ter to oust the Clip­pers from the play­offs.

The Jazz, who had not won a play­off se­ries since 2010, led 9680 with 5:30 re­main­ing be­fore the Clip­pers made a clos­ing charge, pulling within 98-90 on J.J. Redick’s three-pointer with 3:28 re­main­ing but com­ing no closer.

Isa­iah Thomas had a tooth knocked off.

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