Trying to compartmentalize one of the most inspiring nights provided by a NBA player
By: Bogart Lipe
As many know by now, Isaiah tragically lost his younger sister in a car accident only a couple of weeks ago, just before the first round. If Thomas chose to sit out the playoffs and go home to Washington state, not a single person would fret. Instead, he continued on, showing resilience and strength we rarely see. He flew cross country and back a number of times, and admitted on a few occasions that he was not fully mentally engaged. The Celtics rallied around their leader, and after losing the first two games, won four straight to advance to the second round. Isaiah continued to grieve off the court in the public eye, which must be increasingly difficult for Thomas. He’s dealing with utter heartbreak all day and night, but many people only see him at 8 pm EST for a few hours at a time. It cannot be overstated what internal power these past weeks have taken to deal with. He attended and spoke at his sister’s funeral between games, and continued on. He had his tooth knocked out in Game 1, and continued on. He received 11 hours of oral surgery to repair the tooth over two days leading up to Game 2, and continued on. Game 2 fell on his sister’s birthday, and he continued on. He played for her, and my word, did he ever represent her perfectly.
Isaiah kept going. He kept scoring. He never let up. He found energy when everyone else seemed to fatigue. Washington’s players were visibly tired, and their two stars John Wall and Bradley Beal came up short a number of times late in the game. He outdueled Wall and his 40 points specifically, the two combining for the first time in NBA playoff history that a player scored 50 points as an opponent scored 40. You could sense something special was happening late in the 4th, as the Celtics came back to tie the game. Washington had two great looks to win, first with Wall missing a 16 footer short and then Beal air balling a fade away from the foul line. Overtime was only a continuation of what seemed like destiny. One play in particular will be the shining moment of Isaiah’s Night. Up 3, with just over a minute left, Isaiah drove to the lane and went up to shoot a jumper. Markieff Morris slapped his wrist as he ascended, and dislodged the ball. Somehow, Isaiah not only regained possession after a few bobbles midair, but also hit the ensuing shot. Watching live, the ball had no business going in. Isaiah chucked it straight at the rim as he fell backwards, and it still fell. It was spectacular, stupendous, and plainly, special. This was the cherry on the top of Isaiah’s Night, the completed and-1 proving to ice the game. The game, shot, and player combined to be a spectacle impossible to ignore. Isaiah has quickly become the most captivating player to watch in the playoffs, and the easiest to root for.
Isaiah is a superstar. There were doubts and criticisms as he elevated into MVP discussion, pointing to his flawed defense and miniature size. Few believed he could succeed in the nasty, physical play in the playoffs, and he has proven all of them wrong thus far. He’s used to proving others wrong, though. During his career he’s been selected with the last pick of the draft, undervalued, and traded. The past 6 games, during which the Celtics are 6-0, have provided a simple argument for Thomas. He has been the single most valuable and heroic player in the playoffs. As such, he must be considered as part of the elite in the NBA, especially if his Celtics advance further into the postseason. To watch Isaiah lately has become progressively awe inspiring and emotional, as he carries not only his team, but also personal tragedy. He has been impeccable, and as he continues to play for his sister, it’s impossible to hope for anything but his excellence to continue. Isaiah Thomas is a fighter. But let us realize he is not simply a basketball player employed for our entertainment, he is human. It’s frankly impossible to represent what he has gone and continues to go through on a day-by-day basis, but we do know one thing.
Isaiah Thomas is incredible.