By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics may have let one crucial opportunity slip away to close out the Wizards in Washington DC on Friday night, but Isaiah Thomas did not sound like a defeated man in the aftermath of a heartbreaking 92-91 defeat.
The two-time All-Star nearly added to his growing legacy in Game 6, with eight crucial points in the closing moments the fourth quarter to help the Celtics build a late five point lead. However, his miscues were arguably the turning point in the defeat. One probability engine gave the Wizards just a 3.8 percent chance of winning with 80 seconds remaining in the game as they trailed by five points without the ball. A perfect storm was needed to turn the tide against Boston and that’s what Thomas contributed to late.
One ugly turnover from the point guard started the collapse with 1:20 remaining and that was followed shortly afterwards by a forced 3-point attempt by Thomas that led to easy points by Wall to tie the game. At that point, the door was opened for the hosts to steal the win in the final 40 seconds, a feat John Wall accomplished in dramatic fashion with a 28-foot 3-point shot to close out the win.
After the loss, Thomas took on responsibility for his mistakes, particularly on the ill-advised pass that led to quick 3 by Bradley Beal.
“After Smart got that charge, the next play they just went all out trapping,” he explained to reporters. “I had nowhere to go. I’ve gotta be better in that situation but they did a really good job of doing that. Their trap, they took away the next pass as well. They hadn’t really been doing that all game. And we weren’t alert, or I wasn’t alert as well, so that’s definitely on me. I’ve gotta do a better job in that situation.”
Instead of lamenting his mistakes though, Thomas elected to look forward with a positive outlook towards Monday’s looming do-or-die situation after the defeat.
“If you had said that back in October, that there’d be a Game 7 in the second round, a lot of people probably wouldn’t even believe that,” Thomas continued. “So we’re excited. I mean, it hurts right now because we just lost. We have nothing to hold our heads down about, we’re going to take a few days to figure out our adjustments and win Game 7.”
History gives Thomas a reason to be optimistic about the matchup. Home teams have gone 101-25 in NBA Game 7s while the Celtics are 20-9 in those contests in franchise history. After cementing one of the best offensive seasons in team history for himself, Thomas is eager to prove his regular season performance was no fluke.
“That’s where all the great players make their name,” Thomas said of Game 7. “You gotta give it everything you’ve got. I guess that’s where legends are born. I’m excited.”
With so many of the C’s future plans still in flux as the summer approaches, a strong performance by Thomas will only strengthen his case to the team’s front office that he can be counted on as a core piece to build around. The path towards Boston being a contender could be a few months (with a major trade/free agent signing) or a few years away (if the team elects to use their Brooklyn picks). The play of Thomas and his teammates in Game 7 will not be a deciding factor in whatever route Danny Ainge chooses, but it will undoubtedly give the team’s brass plenty to think about.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.