It’s perfectly acceptable if you’re still in awe of what Isaiah Thomas was able to do in Game 2 of the Celtics-Wizards series. But the truth (tooth?) is that the 5-foot-9 point guard has been surprising people his entire life regardless of the level or stage he’s on. We’re all just seeing it to the extreme now.
The Celtics roll into our nation’s capital for Game 3 Thursday winners of six straight games, and hold a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Wizards after Thomas’ historic 53-point effort on his late sister Chyna’s 23rd birthday Tuesday night in Boston.
The C’s franchise has never blown a playoff series after leading 2-0, but they don’t have to look very far back to see that it can happen. After all, the Bulls were up on them 2-0 before Rajon Rondo’s thumb injury took him – and essentially the Bulls – out of the playoffs.
Things can change in a hurry.
There is still plenty of work to do before the Celtics really put this thing out of reach.
1. How about the other guards?
No, we aren’t going to be that person who acts as if he or she sees the game better than everyone else. We get that the Celtics go as Isaiah Thomas goes. But the Celtics have had a ton of success when he’s out there with Avery Bradley and now Terry Rozier. Believe it or not, Rozier was a game-high plus-25 in Game 2, a full 15 points higher than Thomas, and in just 25 minutes. Rozier has taken huge steps in the playoffs to become a key rotation player. Bradley gave everybody a scare when he left the game with a hip injury, but he returned and hit a huge three-pointer to put Boston up three late in the fourth quarter. He also picked a couple Wizards pockets. It doesn’t seem like Bradley’s injury is serious, so they dodged a major bullet.
2. Protect the ball
The Celtics had no problem hitting shots in the first quarter of Game 2. Their problem was executing to get those shots. They got off to an extremely sloppy start, turning the ball over nine times in that quarter. For that reason, the Wizards outshot them 24 to 16, and outscored them 42 to 29, despite the fact that Boston shot 69-percent from the field. The C’s finished in the Top-10 in turnovers during the regular season, so it was uncharacteristic to come out this way and once again put them behind by double-digits early on. Boston won’t have the crowd on their side in Game 3 to help them rally back from a big deficit. If they start off poorly for the third straight game and let John Wall run the show, it could get ugly and stay ugly.
3. Who starts in Game 3 – and does it matter?
Brad Stevens has figured out a lot of things for this Celtics team, but one thing he hasn’t seemed to get right the last few games is who the fifth starter is for his team. The Gerald Green honeymoon looks like it ended after Game 1, but Amir Johnson’s return for Game 2 didn’t go so hot either, as he was a minus-8 in the first 4:31 of the game and didn’t touch the court again. Boston has still overcome back-to-back bad starts. So what now? There are options, but obviously they can mess with the team’s bench production. One solution might be to start rookie Jaylen Brown, who showed up in 11:41 of time in Game 2, and drew praise from Brad Stevens after the game. Sure, the C’s would be small, but the matchups aren’t all that bad and Stevens can still count on heavy minutes from Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk, and Rozier off the bench. Of course, Stevens could go with any of those options to start as well. One thing has remained clear – it’s not who starts the game; it’s who finishes it.