Tonight on the road the Boston Celtics will look to get back on the winning track, after trailing by just six points going into the fourth quarter in Sacramento, but they just didn’t have enough to beat the Kings on home court. Everyone was expecting something Isaiah Thomas, who has been the NBA’s best fourth-quarter scorer this season but he can’t be the team savior time and again, bailing them out.
Last night, for most of the game, Thomas didn’t have his usual energy and vibe or burst of energy that has made known league-over as one of the most unstoppable scoring forces in the NBA today. In Wednesday’s 108-92 loss, it simply exposed the Celtics biggest weakness, which is them relying too much on Thomas to save the day when they are struggling as a team.
“We can’t rely on Isaiah to score 30, 40 points,” Marcus Smart told reporters after the loss. “Everybody has to contribute.”
So, tonight they’ll have to do that as they try hard to bounce back against the Portland Trail Blazers. It’s a team that Boston wants to get some revenge on after a 127-123 home loss in overtime registered on Jan. 21.
In that game there was a controversial last minute play, two days after the game the league released a report where it was determined that a late steal and lay-up by Smart should have counted and would have put Boston ahead 112-111 with 10.8 seconds to play in regulation. Instead the officials called Smart for a foul and they lost the game.
Portland was able to outscore the Celtics, 14-10, in overtime for the victory.
“They got one at our house last time we played them,” Smart said. “We know what to expect.”
Most nights most teams know what to expect from the Celtics, which a lot of fire power from Thomas, who had 26 points, but only seven in the fourth quarter, in that game against the Kings.
While that strategy has been working for them for most of this season, to get to the playoffs they will need others to step up and put up points, go for the points when they have opportunities to make shots and dominate the rim.
In the loss versus the Kings, Amir Johnson had 14 points, and was 6-for-7 shooting, and had the chance to run the floor as well as move along the baseline to spots where Thomas found him for easy lay ups and scores.
But outside of Johnson, Thomas hasn’t been getting much help from the rest of his teammates who are simply lacking the confidence and struggling to make easy shots.
“We were back turning the ball over, our offensive decision-making wasn’t good all night,” Brad Stevens told reporters after the loss. “For the better part of the last three quarters, they just did whatever they wanted to.”
The Blazers aren’t that much better at 23-30, and have had trouble putting wins this season, since their explosive backcourt of Damon Lillard and C.J. McCollum will present Boston with a bigger challenge than Sacramento did, who had to play without DeMarcus Cousins due to him serving a one-game suspension (incurred by getting a 16th technical foul this season).
The NBA reports that the Blazers’ backcourt ranks second in the league in scoring at 58.4 points per game, so they will have to be kept in check.
Boston has had a lot of success this season by outscoring teams due to Thomas, who currently is the NBA’s second-leading scorer at 29.8 points per game. And they are confidet even despite having their seven game winning streak ended, the Celtics were able to get major scoring production from several players and they’ll want that to continue.
Most importantly, the Celtics have to sort out how to play better defensively since offense cannot be their only crutch or go-to move.
“It seemed like as the game went on, we got slower and slower,” Thomas told reporters after the loss.
IT’s possible jet lag and the long flight over, or having too much down time, and taking the Kings for granted that made them slow down, but they can’t do that tonight. Since it’s a new day and,
“there’s no excuses,” Thomas said. “We have to play better.”
And we think they will.