The Wizards tried everything against Isaiah Thomas tonight. They threw taller defenders at him, they tried trapping him on pick-and-rolls, they tried switching on him, they tried hitting him. Nothing worked. The puny Celtics star got into the best point guard duel of the playoffs with John Wall and came out on the other side the victor, scoring 53 points in 45 minutes and leading the Celtics to a resounding 129-119 overtime victory.
Early on, it seemed as if tonight would be Wall’s night. The Wizards superstar went for 19 points and six assists in the first quarter, and his team leapt out to a 42-point first quarter. Bradley Beal looked dazed and out of things for the duration, but the Wizards marched on unperturbed thanks to Wall’s ceaseless shot creating and a gutsy performance from the hobbled Markieff Morris. Wall’s electron-like speed is well-known at this point, and the Celtics feared his sudden drives so much that they gave up acres of space anytime he had any sort of positive momentum. So he picked them apart, scoring 40 and dishing out 13 assists. Wall is also a spectacular athlete, and he created several transition opportunities with his three steals and three blocks.
While Wall was getting most of his buckets in the first half, Isaiah Thomas was lurking. He came alive in the fourth quarter, as he tends to, scoring 29 in the fourth and overtime. While the Wizards looked increasingly gassed and frantic as the game drew on, Thomas only looked more relaxed. He’d get Morris or Marcin Gortat switched onto him and easily claim whatever shot he wanted. Concerns that Thomas is too short to be effective in the playoffs now seem completely overblown. Watch him slither through endless pick-and-rolls, hitting floaters, layups, and open teammates.
Fittingly, he hit the dagger, getting Morris to bite on a fake then hitting the and-one anyway.
The emotional deflation the Wizards must be feeling right now has to be crushing. They had this game wrapped up multiple times and had two chances to end the game in regulation. Wall is the shit, but he can only do so much and the team’s lack of frontcourt depth is glaring. After Gortat fouled out in overtime, you could feel the air come out of the balloon. Maybe they’ll steal one or two, and maybe they’ll even make this a series, but if it’s close in the fourth quarter and Isaiah Thomas has the rock, good luck.