Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas needs attitude adjustment
Many words could encapsulate the final 20 seconds of the Boston Celtics’ 109-106 loss at Phoenix on Sunday evening.
Nightmare works. Disaster comes to mind. Catastrophe can also be added to the list.
Up two points with possession against one of the league’s worst teams, Jaylen Brown and Isaiah Thomas each bricked a free throw down the stretch. Much like walking the leadoff man in baseball, the rest is somewhat predictable: Boston paid the price.
The lottery-bound Suns managed to score five points in final four seconds – two thanks to poor defense and the final three served on a silver platter with a turnover on the inbound – handing the Celtics a well-earned defeat.
It wouldn’t be surprising if local high school coaches still standing in their respective tournaments used Boston’s failure as a teaching point. After all, the Celtics’ brain-bending conclusion provided a blueprint of how to lose a close game.
Perhaps more importantly, players took note of Thomas’ comments after the game.
“I thought Jae (Crowder) would get it out quicker than he would,” Thomas said. “I don’t know if he was looking to see if we had a timeout or I don’t know what he was thinking to do.”
Thomas has evolved into one of the most prolific scorers in the league, but he could use some work around the microphone. Here’s a tip to all athletes and coaches conveying their feelings to scribes such as myself: Never publicly throw your teammates under the bus.
Even if the inbound blunder was entirely Crowder’s fault, it would reflect much better on Thomas to place the blame on the team as a whole. It’s the first page of Tom Brady’s playbook.
To his credit, Thomas did as much after Boston’s more acceptable but just as uninspiring 116-102 defeat at the Los Angeles Clippers late Monday night – but not before questioning the coach.
“We should have won this game. We should have won (Sunday) night (in Phoenix). We can’t be experimenting in Game 63,” Thomas said to a postgame media scrum.
“It’s just the way we lost tonight that was unacceptable. We lose the game in the last 15 minutes of the game,” the man often referred to as the King in the Fourth continued. “We played a really good game up until the last 15 minutes. And that’s the players’ fault, the coaches’ fault, that’s everybody in this locker room’s fault. We could have done a lot better.”
The degree of difficulty won’t decrease at Golden State on Wednesday and the Nuggets’ recent play indicates a trip to Denver won’t be any easier. The potential for a skid out west would put a significant damper on the triumph over Cleveland last week.
Thomas is well aware how rapidly a team can reverse course, though, and perhaps Boston’s footing in the standings will firm up in the near future.
“We’re only three games back (of Cleveland). It’s not the end of the season,” Thomas said following the loss to the Clippers. “We could go on a five-game winning streak starting next game. You never know. That’s how fast things can change. But we have to figure it out. We will. We can’t panic, but tonight hurt. It hurt me, I know that.”
Boston will need a leader to do some serious damage in the East. Thomas, The King in the Fourth, should continue to work on that role.
After all, spring is coming.
Jason Orfao can be reached at 594-1253, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Telegraph_Jason.