No one would have faulted Isaiah Thomas if he didn’t play in Game 1 of the Boston Celtics’ first-round series against the Chicago Bulls. One day after his sister, Chyna, died in a car accident, he led his team onto the floor at TD Garden and delivered an inspired performance.
Thomas scored a game-high 33 points, but it would not be enough as the top-seeded Celtics fell 106-102.
“I think it just speaks to who he is as a person and how he comes out here and just fights each and every night, even when adversity is against him,” Celtics forward Jae Crowder said to ESPN.com. “We just should have gotten that win for him.”
The emotional toll was heavy on Thomas but it appeared to have a draining effect on teammates, who felt as though they let him down.
“We’re never going to make excuses, but this was hard,” Al Horford said. “This was difficult, and I felt like our guys really dealt with it the right way. Isaiah’s the one I feel like was the best. We knew he was hurting, and it’s not easy, and we have a lot of respect for him. We have a lot of respect for what he’s able to do to come out here and show — it’s not an easy task.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens talked after the game about the impact Thomas had.
“He was incredible. He’s an amazing player, amazing person. And days won’t get easier for him, but he somehow plays like that.”
Thomas was 10-of-18 (55.6%) from the field; his teammates were 27-of-68 (39.7%).
If the Celtics can offer the same support to Thomas on the court that they have off the court, this should still be a short series.