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Isaiah Thomas is trying to look on the bright side of things during his groin injury. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Most of the time, professional athletes block out the noise and nonsense. 

But ever so occasionally, sometimes the noise bleeds through. 

So when there was the theory put out early in Wednesday’s game against Orlando that the Celtics are somehow a better passing team without Isaiah Thomas in the lineup, the injured point guard fired back. And he drew on the advice he got once from Kobe Bryant. 

“They gotta write something,” Thomas said of the Twitterverse. “They say the stupidest things so they get the headlines and everybody can talk about it,” Thomas said Friday night before the Celtics hosted the Toronto Raptors. “I can’t control that. At this point, I laugh about it now. Because it’s like, if you really think that, OK, that’s fine. I know what I mean to my teammates, I know what I mean to this organization and to Brad Stevens.”

The Celtics started out with 11 assists on 13 baskets. They finished the game, a 30-point blowout win, with 29 assists on 43 baskets in Boston’s first game without Thomas. 

“The ball moved a little better without me. I guess so,” Thomas said before Friday’s game with an appropriate amount of cynicism. “‘They’re a better team without me. The ball moves better without me.’ I see it all.”

After getting his points across with a due amount of sarcasm, Thomas began to speak more from the heart. 

“That’s not true. So the chip on my shoulder that is what it is, I’m always going to have that and use that for motivation,” Thomas said. “But the numbers don’t lie. It is what it is. But people that say that they don’t even believe it. They go home at night, they’re not believing that. They’re just saying it to get a reaction. I’m trying my best not to react.”

Thomas is not only averaging 26 points, he handing out a team-leading 6.1 assists per game. 

“If it was anybody else we wouldn’t be talking about that,” Thomas continued. “I’m 5-9, that’s the only reason why they say that. I’m fine with that. I know what I bring to the table. My teammates know what I bring. As long as they are happy. I’m fine. I’m not going to react. I try not to. I try to think of what Kobe said: Be a lion. Just lock in and don’t worry about what others say.”

Sully’s return: Jared Sullinger is still waiting to make his return to the NBA after back surgery last spring. The Raptors signed him to a one-year, $5.6 million deal at the start of free agency in July. Sullinger was made available when the Celtics decided not to tender him in restricted free agency. But because of his offseason surgery, he hasn’t been able to get on the floor. But his coach has high hopes for him once he starts playing. 

“He gives us the same thing Al Horford gives the Celtics – a guy who can space the floor, a post-up threat, a passer, a player with a lot of intellect to play that position, experience,” Dwane Casey said. “He started 79 games for them last year, so he gives us that experience.”

When exactly that return happens is still up in the air.

“Not sure. There’s no definite timetable on it yet,” Casey said. “Someone said four to five weeks, and I don’t want to put a hard deadline on that. But it’s going to be up to him, his pain threshold, he’s been working his ass off, he’s been in the pool, he can barely put weight on it, but he’s trying to get back. He’s doing an excellent job with his conditioning, his weight is down. We’re not concerned as all.”

Sullinger has been traveling with the Raptors, including Friday night in Boston, where he got a chance to catch up with some former teammates. Was he disappointed not to play Friday night against the Celtics?

“Not really. I kind of disengage myself from the game of basketball just so I don’t rush back,” Sullinger said. “Just understanding health is most important right now. Going through the season I’m just glad it happened early instead of late. Right now I’m just removing myself, just so I don’t rush back and do something I’m not supposed to or make a step I’m not supposed to make. I’m just trying to stay away from it.”

Sullinger says the back injury happened on April 1, when he went up to block Ian Clark’s shot in Oakland against the Warriors. 

“As funny as it sounds, when I went up to block Ian Clark’s shot, it just felt funny and the rest of the game it felt funny,” Sullinger recalled Friday. “The next day I woke up and it was sore. We went over and over and where I had the crack in the bone, my pain wasn’t lined up with it. I had more pain in my ankle than the actual foot part. So we just let it rest and it wasn’t getting better. I got an MRI and realized it was time to have surgery.

“You don’t want to mess this up, because once you mess it up, you’re out another three months, and then you mess it up again and you’re out another three months and you don’t want that to happen. So I’m just taking it slow.”

Sullinger says his first trip back to Boston was a bit odd. 

“It was just weird, not being able to go to my house and staying in a hotel,” Sullinger said. “That was the weirdest part. There were emotions, of course. This place had some of the best four years of my life, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But at this point it’s all about getting a win for Toronto.”

Sullinger admitted that he felt a sense of pride in being part of the turnaround from the start of the Brad Stevens era, when the Celtics won 25 games in 2013-14 to now.  

“I just thought, for what I came in to do as a rookie to when I left, it was gratifying to see the program changed, and I was a part of that,” Sullinger said. 

“Right when I heard the news I texted him to make sure his spirits were high and he was all right,” Isaiah Thomas said. “And I just saw him a little bit ago. He seems like he’s in the right state of mind and he’s just trying to get back to getting healthy, and get out there and playing.

“He got me open so it was lovely playing with Jared. He’s a great teammate, he’s a hell of a basketball player, and like I said when I was open it was because of him. So he set great screens for me, and I miss him. I miss him out there.”

Then there was the reaction of coach Brad Stevens. 

“I texted him right after the surgery maybe but no I haven’t talked to him in the last couple of weeks,” Stevens said before Friday’s game. “Obviously, everybody here wishes him a speedy recovery and hopefully he gets back out on the court soon. I like Jared a lot. He’s a heck of a player, a really smart guy. I have a lot of respect for him. It stinks that he has to go through that, but he’ll come back strong I’m sure.” 

The reason Sullinger didn’t come back? 

“[Al] Horford. That was the decision driver,” Stevens said. 

Backcourt basics: While they may not have the popularity or fame of the Splash Brothers in Golden State or the name recognition of Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving or Chris Paul, the Raptors possess one of the truly superior backcourts in basketball. 

And the combination of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan showed their brilliance in one exceptional game-changing quarter of basketball Friday night in the Raptors’ come-from-behind win. Lowry scored 14 of his game-high 34 points in the period while DeRozan added 10 in the quarter. The two were a combined plus-31 and shot 7-of-16 from the field. They simply took over the game. Lowry and DeRozan combined for 58 points in the 101-94 Raptors’ win.

“It’s a big-time backcourt,” Brad Stevens said before the contest. “Two Olympians. Guys that are playing at a high level. Guys that are in the prime of their career. They’ve been a bear for everybody. They’ve had an outstanding year thus far. They’re a really hot team, and, tough matchups.”

DeRozan is averaging 28 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists while Lowry, in his 11th year out of Villanova, is averaging 20.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 7.6 assists. 

“I don’t know why he’d be overlooked,” Stevens said. “Not overlooked by me or our staff. I think he’s one of the best point guards in basketball, and he can shoot the ball at a high, high level. He’s a hard guy to stop in pick-and-roll going downhill. He can play with the ball or off the ball, and then defensively he’s a pest. He breaks things up. He’s physical so he can guard bigger. He’s good.”

Silver linings backcourt:  With Isaiah Thomas out with a groin injury, Brad Stevens has now lost three of his five projected starters at some point this season due to injury. Al Horford and Jae Crowder came back and helped the Celtics win 5-of-7 in their return. Now, the Celtics are 1-1 without Thomas, beating Orlando by 30 on Wednesday but losing to Toronto Friday night at TD Garden. Marcus Smart stepped into the starting role for Thomas while Terry Rozier is seeing much more playing time off the bench.

“It’s always tough because you’re kind of always managing a curveball here or there,” Stevens said. “But I look at it as a good thing in the long run with regard to more people are getting opportunities. And maybe this expedites Jaylen Brown’s learning curve, expedites Terry Rozier’s learning curve.

“They’re getting to see things and go through things and do things that maybe they don’t get as much when we’re fully healthy. It is what it is. You prepare with who you have available and you move forward. Our system really doesn’t change a ton. It may change the read you make off of the action but hopefully we have enough in that can take advantage of playing through the strengths of multiple people on each action.”

A true hero: The Celtics sensational community program “Heroes Among Us” honored 25-year-old Seth Rotberg from Natick, Mass during Friday’s game against Toronto. After his mother died from Huntington’s disease, he was tested for the disease. He tested positive. His response was to raise $80,000 for nonprofits supporting research and care. Last year, he received the Huntington’s Disease Society of America’s Youth of the Year Award for his efforts. 

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

The Celtics get out to a big first half lead but go cold in the third quarter as they lose to the Raptors Friday night at TD Garden. Mike Petraglia has your story inside TD Garden.

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Blog Author: 
WEEI

It was clear in Friday night’s 101-94 loss to the Raptors that this Celtics team needs Isaiah Thomas.

Dec 9, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) shoots against the Boston Celtics in the first quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

DeMar DeRozan (10) shoots against the Celtics in the first quarter at TD Garden. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

It was clear in Friday night’s 101-94 loss to the Raptors that this Celtics team needs Isaiah Thomas.

Thomas was on the bench with a groin injury and watched his team lose a tough one at the Garden.  

The Celtics bench did look strong in the first half, scoring 21 points with a consistent shot distribution.

The team as a whole looked confident in this win. Al Horford also had a strong game, as he and Avery Bradley both led the team in scoring with 19 points. 

The Celtics led 50-42 at halftime before losing the lead late in the third quarter. The Raptors pulled ahead to lead 75-68 at the end of the quarter and outscored the Celtics 33-18. 

Boston fell apart and had trouble driving to the hoop in the second half, missing 13 of 18 shots in the third quarter. They made nine of those shots from beyond the arc and only sunk three of them. 

“It was hard for us to break their wall of defense,” coach Brad Stevens said after the game of the Raptors in the third quarter. “They were pushing into us, they were very, very athletic at a number of positions and they ratcheted it up. And it was hard for us to handle that pressure. And when we drove they collapsed and used their athleticism to affect us in the paint. They were very good. Their defense was fantastic in the third quarter.” 

For the full box score, click here.

The Raptors sat starting forward DeMarre Carroll to rest his knee so he wouldn’t play in back-to-back games. Norman Powell started in Carroll’s place and scored 20 points. The Raptors had three players score 20 or more points, as Kyle Lowry led the team with 34 while DeMar DeRozan scored 24. 

Stud of the night: The Celtics bench

The bench carried the first half for the Celtics, scoring a total of 32 points in the game with 21 in the first half. Terry Rozier alone scored 12 of those points and had three rebounds and three assists. 

Dud of the night: The third quarter

The third quarter flat-out stunk for the Celtics. This was where they lost all their steam and let the game slip away. They missed more than half of their shots and made only two their shots in the paint. 

When the game was lost: Also the third quarter

The Celtics cooled off considerably in the third quarter and never started their engines up again for the rest of the second half. 

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Blog Author: 
Lucy Burdge

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In the wake of his epic 61-39 win in NBA2K17 over a group of four lucky kids Friday night, Isaiah Thomas appeared to be in a good mood. 

Then the conversation turned to his sore groin. 

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Isaiah Thomas plays a group of four kids in NBA2K before Friday’s game against the Raptors. Thomas missed his 2nd straight game with a sore groin. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

In the wake of his epic 61-39 NBA2K win over a group of four lucky kids Friday night, Isaiah Thomas appeared to be in a good mood. 

Then the conversation turned to his sore groin. 

“I’m not that good because I can’t play,” Thomas said. “It’s getting better. It hasn’t gotten worse and I’m just work as hard as I can to get back on the court.”

Thomas said he wasn’t sure about his status for the upcoming two-game swing through Oklahoma City (Sunday) and San Antonio (Wednesday). 

“I want to play but they keep telling me no,” Thomas said later in the locker room. 

Brad Stevens said before the game that Thomas’ injury, one suffered Monday night in Houston, was one that the team expects to sideline Thomas 7-10 days. Thomas is trying to be more optimistic.

“I’m going to take it day-by-day. Hopefully, I can play in the next few games and we’ll see what happens,” Thomas said. “Today, I feel a lot better than I have since I gotten the injury so we’ll see maybe in next couple of days. I’m shooting for Wednesday.”

The groin didn’t keep Thomas from laying a 61-39 beat down on the four kids who won the Shamrock Foundation raffle to play Thomas on the video board at the Garden before the game.

“That’s just how it is,” Thomas said. “If it was the other way around, they wouldn’t show no mercy.

“It’s just about having fun, like I always said, putting a smile on other people’s faces and doing what’s right. It’s cool to play video games with kids. I wish I were in their shoes, being able to play video games with a professional athlete. It’s always fun. I do that at home with my kids.”

Thomas hinted that he has slightly different rules for NBA2K with his own kids at home.

“I’ve got to let my kids [win] because they start crying and getting mad,” Thomas said. “Some days, if I’ve got the wrong attitude, I won’t show them no mercy.”

Thomas chose the Mavs and was pumped up on several dunks, including one by Harrison Barnes. Why the Mavs?

“They’re a pretty good team on the video game,” Thomas said. The Mavs, ironically are an NBA-worst 4-17 this season. 

 

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

The Celtics are being very cautious with the sore groin of Isaiah Thomas. 

Isaiah Thomas dives on the floor for a loose ball during Wednesday's win over the Nets. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas has again been playing all-out this season for the Celtics. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics are being very cautious with the sore groin of Isaiah Thomas. 

The star point guard will likely miss his second straight game with the injury suffered Monday night in Houston after receiving a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection on Wednesday. The 13-9 Celtics take on Atlantic Division-leading Toronto Friday night at TD Garden and stand just 1.5 games back of them for the No. 2 seed in the East. 

“It’s just day to day. He is a warrior. He loves to play,” Ainge said of Thomas. “He’ll be back faster than most players would be back after an injury. But at the same time we really have to be careful with Isaiah for the long haul and make sure that he doesn’t come back and re-injure it. So I’m not sure about the answer.

“I don’t know if he’ll play Friday. Probably not. We’ll just try to get him as much rest as we can and get him back on the court when he’s ready.”

Head coach Brad Stevens told reporters before Wednesday’s game that the team will be cautious with its All-Star point guard due to the nature of the injury. 

The Celtics didn’t need Thomas Wednesday night as they blew out Orlando, 117-87, outscoring the Magic, 68-37, in the second half. 

Thomas is again leading the Celtics in scoring this year, averaging 26 points and 6.2 assists in 21 games. Wednesday’s game was the first Thomas missed this season. 

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

With Isaiah Thomas back in Boston receiving treatment on his strained groin, the question for the Celtics was who would replace the production of their leading scorer Wednesday night. The answer: everyone.

Al Horford drives on Evan Fournier during Wednesday's game. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Al Horford drives on Evan Fournier during Wednesday’s game. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

With Isaiah Thomas back in Boston receiving treatment on his strained groin, the question for the Celtics was who would replace the production of their leading scorer Wednesday night. The answer: everyone.

Seven Celtics scored in double figures (and Kelly Olynyk was one point short of being the eighth) as the C’s dominated the Magic in the second half en route to an impressive 117-87 victory.

Avery Bradley led the offensive onslaught with 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting and 6-of-7 free throws. Terry Rozier came off the bench to pour in 16 points, Jae Crowder had 15 points and 10 rebounds, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Amir Johnson each netted 13, and Al Horford amassed 10 points, eight assists and six boards (and was a plus-31).

And before you dismiss the Magic, consider that Orlando was coming off a road trip in which it won four out of five, including an eye-catching win over the Spurs.

The C’s outscored Orlando 68-37 in the second half. They opened the second half on a 10-2 run, playing fierce defense and unselfish offense. On one sequence Bradley hounded Evan Fournier and eventually blocked his runner out of bounds. The C’s continued to pour it on at both ends and pushed their newfound lead up to 18 points at 78-60 late in the period after a three-point play by Brown. At that point the C’s had hit 11 of their 13 shots in the period, and assists were credited on 10 of the 11 baskets.

The Celtics trailed by a point at the half, 50-49, despite shooting just 2-for-15 from behind the arc. They made up for that by hitting 16-of-27 from inside the arc. Meanwhile, Orlando hit 8-of-10 treys — led by D.J. Augustin’s 4-for-4 — but shot just 10-for-26 inside the arc.

Smart was given the start in Thomas’ place. He started inauspiciously, by getting faked out and fouling Augustin while the Magic guard was shooting a 3-pointer with a tenth of a second left on the shot clock during Orlando’s opening possession. He then swished a jumper as the shot clock was running down on Boston’s first foray over halfcourt.

Meanwhile, Johnson returned to the starting lineup after a four-minute stint off the bench in Monday’s loss to the Rockets.

Stud of the night: Avery Bradley

Bradley was the spark for the Celtics during their third-quarter run and throughout. He not only hit from outside, he got to the line — which has been a concern for this team — and hit 6-of-7.

Dud of the night: Serge Ibaka

Orlando’s big man came up small against the C’s, hitting just 3-of-10 shots and finishing at minus-22, worst on the night.

When the game was won: The third quarter

For the first 9 1/2 minutes of the period Boston was dominant on both ends of the floor, outscoring Orlando 29-10. The Magic managed to score 13 points in the final 2 1/2 minutes of the period, but it still goes down as a very impressive quarter for the C’s.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar