By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics have relied heavily on Isaiah Thomas’ scoring since his arrival in Boston two years ago, a call he usually answers on a nightly basis.
But Thomas was off of his game in the early parts of Wednesday night’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and the Celtics never really stood a chance against the defending champs.
He missed open looks. He turned the ball over, a big no-no against the Cavaliers. He nearly got stampeded by LeBron James while trying to play some defense.
It was a frustrating night all around for Isaiah Thomas as the Celtics fell 117-104, and he vows to be better in Friday night’s Game 2.
“I just missed shots and didn’t have a rhythm. Next game, I’ll be more aggressive to get to the paint,” said Thomas.
Thomas finished the night with 17 points and 10 assists, but he struggled to get going early as the Celtics dug themselves into an insurmountable hole. Thomas coughed up the first possession of the game amid a double team in the corner, leading to a Kyrie Irving layup on the other end, one of three first half turnovers by the Boston point guard. He missed eight of his first nine shots of the evening, and even missed two of three free throws after being fouled from beyond the arc.
Thomas made his final two shots of the half, including a three just before the buzzer, but the Celtics hit the locker room down 22. Despite the team playing much better in the second half, the outcome was never really in question.
Asked if there was an emotional letdown from Monday’s Game 7 win over the Wizards, Thomas dismissed that notion.
“They were the better team tonight. They hit us first and were more physical on both ends of the floor, and that was the difference,” he said. “A team like that, the defending champs, you can’t let them hit first. It will be different in Game 2.”
Thomas said the Celtics can’t use Cleveland’s lengthy time off as an excuse (it had been 10 days since the Cavs completed their Eastern Conference Semis sweet of the Raptors), but it was clear that one team had more energy than the other right from the jump.
“You have to give it to them and tip your cap. They were the better team and they had more energy. It was obvious,” he said. “They had a week or two off and we had seven games. We can’t use that as an excuse. They hit us first and they were the more energized team. There was a reason for that.”
Even when the Celtics tried to hit back, they were pushed away like an annoying gnat. Thomas attempted to stop James from barreling his way to the basket for an easy bucket in the fourth quarter, and being just 5-foot-9, he took the brunt of the collision with the 6-foot-8, 250-pound James.
Though he was hardly the only Boston player to struggle on Wednesday night, it’s clear that as Thomas goes, so go the Celtics. He’ll need to be much better going forward if the Celtics want any chance to makes the series interesting against the defending champs.