By Fred Jones, Joey Balzotti, Matt Szafran
Isaiah Thomas’s return to the Land of the Sun wasn’t the prettiest sight for the Boston Celtics. Coming off great wins over the almighty Cavaliers and the weary Lakers, Boston decidedly dropped the ball in Phoenix Sunday night in an all-around lackluster performance. Missing both Avery Bradley and Al Horford, the Celtics struggled to do much of anything both offensively and defensively. The Celts lacked defensively, only racking up 6 steals, and letting Eric Bledsoe drop 28 points, including the crucial game-tying reverse layup.
With the Celtics coming off a massive win in L.A., you would think they would come out hot, especially against a team like the Suns. But, it was quite the opposite. Shooting just 37.6% percent from the field, and 72.5% from the line. The travel-weary Celtics just couldn’t find any foothold to get back into the game. It seemed that just as Boston hit their stride, they fell off again; the win hung over their head like the fruit over Tantalus's, there for the taking, but never possible to take. The Celtics main source of offense was Isaiah Thomas. After not having to pick up the bulk of the offensive work over the past couple of weeks as others had picked up their shares, Isaiah again proved last night that he still can step up and put the team on his back. The starting Jonas Jerebko put up just 1 point in 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Kelly Olynyk failed to score in all of his 22 minutes in the game, missing a few open layups. Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart picked up their slack off the bench, and combined for 25 points. Rozier had 14 of those 25 while shooting 4 of 5 from beyond the arc.
The biggest takeaway from this game is most definitely our free throw woes. Unfortunately, Jaylen Brown shot just 5-10 from the stripe, and Isaiah Thomas missed one of his final two that would have put the C’s over the top of the Suns. Look, not all was bad in this game. We played terrible, and still should have won if Isaiah hadn’t turned the ball over and/or we made a few more free throws. This game is now behind us. Plus, Cleveland got blown out in Miami, and the Raptors lost in Milwaukee. The Wizards pulled a one-point win out of their ass, but they remain two games behind the Celts. A win against the Clippers would really give the team momentum coming into the matchup in Golden State.
It was a brutal night, and the Celtics seemed to be mocking the viewers, pulling close then falling behind because of simple, preventable mistakes. In the end though, every great team has games like this- Golden State had one against Chicago, and Cleveland dropped the ball against Miami in spectacular fashion. If any game had to be this brutal, it may as well have been this one, because in the end there is very little harm to this team’s material standing- they still hold the second seed in the East and home court for the first two rounds- but the C’s must not allow the psychological impact of this loss to get to them throughout the rest of this trip, otherwise a simple bad day can turn into a monster which could wreak havoc on the remainder of this team’s season.