After spending 20 minutes with a towel draped over his head in front of his locker and after emptying his tank for six games, Isaiah Thomas had to get up the energy to walk to the postgame podium. 

He did so with red eyes, the product of emotion and tears following a 104-92 loss to the Hawks in Game 6 that suddenly ended his breakout season and began an offseason of questions. 

Apr 28, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) reacts against the Atlanta Hawks during the second half in game six of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas was dejected following a Game 6 loss to the Hawks. . (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

After spending 20 minutes with a towel draped over his head in front of his locker and after emptying his tank for six games, Isaiah Thomas had to get up the energy to walk to the postgame podium. 

He did so with red eyes, the product of emotion and tears following a 104-92 loss to the Hawks in Game 6 that suddenly ended his breakout season and began an offseason of questions. 

“It was 2-2, we went down their and they made an adjustment to try and do whatever they can to stop me and guys continued to play through it and that’s what I love about this group,” said Thomas, who had a team-leading 25 points on 9-of-24 shooting. “Guys continued to shoot their shot with confidence, it’s just we couldn’t make enough plays. They made more plays than us. There was game where they went on that third quarter run, like its tough to get back into the game especially against a good team. So, we’ve got to just learn from these battles, knowing that nobody said it was going to be easy, its tough to win a series and we know that. It was tough to even win two games. This should hurt everybody and we will come back next year even stronger.”

But for the second straight game, Boston had no answers when they threw two and three bodies at Thomas, in an effort to force others to pick up the slack. 

But this time, unlike after Game 5, Thomas was calling out his teammates. He was praising them. 

“Yes, its very emotional for me, just because we gave it our all,” Thomas said.”  We never put our head down, like I said this group of guys is something special. I mean I played, I gave it my all so that’s why it hurts that much more. I wish I could have done more, but it just happened to be like that. So, it is tough on me though.”

Thomas is hopeful this isn’t the last go-round with a group that won 48 games and came within a whisker of the No. 3 seed in the East. 

“That’s just the business of the NBA. One thing I do know, I ride with these guys to the wheels fall off, I mean this was a special group,” Thomas said. “Hopefully we can all stick together and have something special inthe future but, I love those guys in the locker room and hopefully we can keep this together.”

Thomas hopes the loud crowd and the way the core group played makes Boston a destination for free agents on the market.  

“I mean our fans are amazing, this city is a sports town,” Thomas said. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, when you do get to experience what Boston Celtics basketball is about, it’s like no other organization. So, I mean as long as we keep getting better, hopefully guys will choose Boston as a city they want to play in.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

The proverbial rotund female started her song early. With the way the Celtics were playing, she had no other choice. 

After a lackluster Game 5 effort, the C’s found themselves on the brink of elimination. And with their backs against the wall, they shot an abysmal 36.2 percent from the field and were soundly defeated 104-92 by the Hawks. 

Apr 28, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) shoots the ball against Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) and center Al Horford (15) during the first half in game six of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 28, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) shoots the ball against Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) and center Al Horford (15) during the first half in game six of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The proverbial rotund female started her song early tonight. With the way the Celtics were playing, she had no choice. 

After a lackluster effort in Game 5, the Boston Celtics found themselves down on the brink of elimination. With their backs against the wall, the Celtics shot an abysmal 36 percent from the field and were soundly defeated 104-92 by the Atlanta Hawks. 

Paul Millsap led the Hawks with 17 points, while Al Horford and Kent Bazemore each added 15. 

Isaiah Thomas finished with a double-double, scoring a game-high 25 points on 9 of 24 while added 10 assists.  Jae Crowder (15), Jonas Jerebko (11), and Marcus Smart (11) also finished in double-figures. 

In the first half, the Hawks continued their Game 5 strategy of double-teaming Thomas, and the Celtics did not have a response. Thomas repeatedly made the correct pass, but his teammates were unable to knock down open shots. The C’s were 3-for-18 from the three point line and shot an abysmal 27.7 percent from the field.

Despite the Celtics shooting woes, the Hawks were unable to pull away, committing nine turnovers in the first two quarters. The C’s were similarly unable to capitalize on their opponents failures, scoring only four points with their extra possessions.

The Hawks then opened the second half on a 15-3 run and never looked back. Towards the end of the quarter, the Celtics brought some life back to the Garden by going on an 8-0 run of their own to cut the deficit to fourteen. The Hawks kept their composure and finished the frame with seven straight points.

The scrappy Celtics did their best to claw their way back in the fourth,  but the giant Hawks lead proved insurmountable, as the Celtics were unable to get within 10 points. 

For a complete box score, click here

 

 

 

 

 

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Sam Packard
Live Blog Celtics-Hawks Game 6 LIVE
 

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WEEI

Feb 11, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer (right) and Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens (left) watch from the sideline in the second half at TD Garden. The Celtics defeated Atlanta 89-88. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens (left) watch from the sideline in the second half at TD Garden. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

The single-most pivotal moment in this series has surrounded Isaiah Thomas. In Game 3, the Celtics started Evan Turner and had him run the point to free him off screens. 

In Game 5, Mike Budenholzer countered by double and triple-teaming him and frustrating Thomas so much that he called out his own teammates after the 110-83 beatdown. 

What will Brad Stevens do in Game 6?

“You just have to make the right basketball play,” Stevens said before Game 6, repeating some of what he said Wednesday in a conference call. “He’s going to have the ball a ton for us, he’s going to be off the ball on actions for us, he’s going to have to read when he should screen, he’s going to have to read when he gets the ball how he’s being played, and just make the right basketball play. There’s certainly things you can do to alleviate some of that.

“But I felt we attacked it really well at the start of the game. Certainly part of their scoring runs was some bad offense on our part in the latter parts of the game. I left thinking Isaiah made a lot of the right basketball plays. That’s his charge – he has to do that, and we’ll follow suit.

And if they run or “blitz” Thomas?

“The blitz is one thing, but they’ve stayed with Isaiah the whole series,” Stevens added. “He’s been through five games of the first four they were mostly back with Horford, and up with Millsap. They stay with the ball, and we know that they packed the paint against Isaiah in the first four games.

“The one tweak is when they blitz, now the ball is extended, and you have more room once you pass out of it to attack. We just have to make the right read, whether it’s catch and shoot or whether it’s catch and rip and drive. Somebody else gets in the paint and makes the right read, and that’s part of it. We have good players who can do that, I believe they can and Isaiah does too. But Isaiah can’t force. If they’re going to put two to the ball, that’s when you have to make the right basketball play.”

The Hawks’ biggest advantage is their bigs. To keep them from getting the ball is the biggest part of the strategy. 

“Our strategy as a team, and one of our greatest strengths – and it’s enhanced when Avery Bradley is available – is to be able to get into the ball and make it as tough as possible on perimeter players,” Stevens said. “Hopefully, the impact we have on the ball makes it harder to get to the rim. That’s been our philosophy all year. The bigs need to play great position for us. Other than Amir we don’t have a ton of shot blocking. We just have to be good in our position early.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

With the season on the line, Isaiah Thomas is indeed ready to go for Game 6 against the Hawks. 

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots the ball past Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague (0). (Bob DeChiara-USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots the ball past Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague (0). (Bob DeChiara-USA Today Sports)

With the season on the line, Isaiah Thomas is indeed ready to go for Game 6 against the Hawks. 

“He told me on Tuesday night after the game, he sent me a text late in the night that said he’s fine, I saw him again [Wednesday] before we met and in film and on the plane, and he felt fine,” Brad Stevens before Thursday’s Game 6 at the Garden. “No issues with swelling, per se, and today it was just as simple as a non-verbal thumbs up. So he’s fine. He’s good to go; he’s ready to roll.” 

This is the second elimination game Stevens has faced as head coach of the Celtics, losing Game 4 to the Cavaliers last year in the four-game sweep. Stevens said this has a much different feel. 

“I think it’s so different, the series is so different, you’re playing a much-different team that plays much differently,” Stevens said. “Certainly, Cleveland did some things, defensively, that Atlanta is doing, but Atlanta just systematically, on both ends of the floor, is a just a totally separate entity to what Cleveland was at that time, or is now.

“And I think the biggest thing that you take away or, when the guys walk in, they came in, we went through our shootaround. Typical day. The focus is always pretty good. It was good again today. Just ready to compete and excited to play in this building.”

The Celtics did not have a full practice but Stevens is confident his team will be ready mentally and physically for the elimination game. 

“It’s obviously not the second night of a back-to-back, 48 hours later. Both teams traveled [Wednesday], we did a typical light film session and then went on our way,” Stevens said. “Came back together today and got ready for it. When you’re playing a team for the 10th time, the seventh time in the last few weeks, and so a lot like a back-to-back, or maybe not a back-to-back, but you know these guys, they know you. We gotta make small, potentially minor changes.

“At the end of the day, we just have to play better than we did the other day. That’s the thing. The best adjustment we can make: Keep our guy in front of us, challenge shots, and, on the other end, spray the ball around and make them. That’s the way it goes.”

 

 

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
It wouldn't be a Celtics v Hawks Game 6 preview/Game 5 breakdown without ESPN's Celtics Whisperer Chris Forsberg joining Sam Packard and Jared Weiss for some WEEI Studio magic. They discuss the Hawks' transition dominance on their mega runs and the bizarre night for Isaiah Thomas. Of course they also answered your #WEEICeltics Tweet Bag questions!

Feb 11, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer (right) and Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens (left) watch from the sideline in the second half at TD Garden. The Celtics defeated Atlanta 89-88. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens (left) and Mike Budenholzer (right) are having quite the matchup in the first round. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

There’s been plenty of talk over the last three games about the coaching moves made by Brad Stevens and Mike Budenholzer. 

There was Stevens changing his lineup and inserting Jonas Jerebko and Evan Turner into the starting lineup with great results before Game 3. There was Stevens going with a small lineup that gave the Hawks fits, especially in the fourth quarter of both games in Boston and there were the two timeouts call by Budenholzer with 15 seconds left in regulation of Game 4. He proceeded to watch his point guard dribble out the clock without actually getting a shot up at the rim as the game went to overtime, where the Celtics dominated and tied the series. 

The advantage went back to Budenholzer on Tuesday as his decision to stay with a perimeter was rewarded when the Hawks connected on 14-of-35 shots from beyond the arc. Budenholzer also took a page out of Stevens’ book by going smaller and moving Paul Millsap to center for long stretches of the game. 

But Stevens said in a conference call Wednesday it’s important not to become overly obsessed with turning the game into a chess match. 

“I think that’s what you have to look at. I think that’s what you have to figure out. I think you always start with a mountain-load of information and your desire is to get to basketball in its simplest form,” Stevens said. 

“I’ve shared this quote before, my old boss at Butler used to quote Lincoln when he said, ‘I apologize for the length of this letter. I didn’t have time to write a short one.’ I think that that’s a coach’s job, is to try to make it as short, simple and sweet as possible and then let guys go out there and play a fast game with a clear mind, and that’s the bottom line, that’s my job and that’s what I’ll stay up thinking about doing. The goal will just be to go out and do our stuff as well as we can.”

The thing that’s killed the Celtics in this series is giving up too many double-digit runs to the Hawks where the Celtics either don’t score or put up very little resistance. Of course, Game 2 featured the 24-3 run by the Hawks to start the game. There were two such runs Tuesday that did them in, a 26-6 second-quarter spurt that turned a 10-point Celtic lead into a 10-point hole in a heartbeat. In the third quarter, the Celtics were within striking distance at 66-57. Then the Hawks scored 18 of the next 19 points to put the game away. In total, the Celtics were outscored 70-33 from midway through the second quarter to the start of the fourth. 

Every NBA game, even in the playoffs, will have its fair share of runs. But the difference in this series is that the team making them usually wins the game. 

“I think in four of the five games, and I don’t know exactly what the run would be in the first game, but they’ve hit us with major runs, yesterday they hit us with two,” Stevens said. “They hit us with the one in the second quarter and then they hit us with the one at the end of the third quarter. It was a six-point game with six minutes left in the third and we had struggled to score, but we were up with six minutes left in the second.

“I think that we’ve got to do a great job of not getting overanxious, offensively, not creating points for them by turning the ball over or taking quick shots and then making sure that we’re just better defensively than we were. There were a lot of things, again — we could talk about one or two things, you have a game like that with the runs that they had, it’s a lot more than one or two things.

 

“Listen, there’s not a person around that respects how good they are and how well-coached they are than me. You anticipate that they’re going to come out with a great sense of urgency and a great way about them, and execute whatever they’re trying to do well with whoever is on the floor.

“And so, whether it’s showing Isaiah a little more attention or playing small or whatever the case may be, whatever they decide to do, the way can operate, they’re going to do it full-go and that’s what makes it go. That’s what makes it work is that that’s a connected group and a really well-coached group. And it’s why we’ve had our hands full from the get-to. It’s been a fun series to compete in and it’s going to be a fun series to compete in [Thursday] night.”  

 

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia