Playoffs 2017: East Finals -- Celtics (1) vs. Cavaliers (2)
Boston Celtics shut down Isaiah Thomas (hip) for rest of postseason
CLEVELAND – If you don’t know what a “femoral-acetabular impingement with labral tear” is, just know this: it’s the thing that has turned an exceedingly difficult challenge for the Boston Celtics into something seemingly insurmountable.
It is, in other words, point guard Isaiah Thomas’ right hip injury, which the team announced Saturday would cause Thomas to miss the remainder of the Celtics’ postseason. Given that Boston already is down 2-0 to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals, with the best-of-seven series shifting to the Cavs’ homecourt for Game 3 Sunday (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT) and Game 4 Tuesday, that “remainder of the postseason” might not be all that long as it is.
— Danny Ainge (@danielrainge) May 20, 2017
But it’s still a devastating blow to the Celtics in general and a lousy end for Thomas to what had been an emotional, distressing, exhilarating and formidable playoff run.
“It’s a blow,” teammate and backcourt mate Avery Bradley said after Thomas sat out the second half of Game 2 Friday at TD Garden. Thomas, Boston’s leading scorer both during the season and in the playoffs, managed only two points in 18 minutes in the first half of Cleveland’s 130-86 rout, was visibly limited and did not return for the third quarter.
“Isaiah brings a lot to this team, not just with his leadership but his play,” Bradley said. “Most important, I just hope he’s better. I care about him off the floor.”
Initially termed a hip strain, Thomas suffered the injury back on March 15 in a game against Minnesota and missed two regular-season games. He aggravated it May 12 during Game 6 of the Celtics’ conference semifinal series against Washington.
“Isaiah has worked tirelessly to manage this injury since it first occurred,” Celtics chief medical officer Dr. Brian McKeon said in a team news release. “The swelling increased during the first two games against Cleveland, and in order to avoid more significant long-term damage to his hip, we could no longer allow him to continue.”
Thomas, 28, averaged 28.9 points and 5.9 assists during the regular season, with a 26.5 player efficiency rating (PER) to earn
In the playoffs, those stats had dipped to 23.3 ppg, 2.2 apg and an 18.3 PER.
The 5-foot-9 guard, along with the rest of the Celtics, were rocked on the eve of their playoff opener against Chicago when they learned Thomas’ 22-year-old sister, Chyna, had died in a one-car accident April 15 near their home in Tacoma, Wash.
He dedicated his postseason performances to her, scored at least 20 points five times in Boston’s first seven games, then went for 53 points in Game 2 against the Wizards. He added 29 points in the Game 7 clincher Monday.
Thomas shot 7-of-19 in the opener against the Cavs two nights later, including 2-of-7 on 3-pointers, while dishing 10 assists against a defense focused on slowing him. Losing their shortest but most potent weapon turns a Celtics’ comeback in the series against the NBA’s defending champs into a tall task.
Bradley has topped Boston in scoring in the two games so far against Cleveland, averaging 17.0 points with forward Jae Crowder at 15.0 and rookie Jaylen Brown at 14.5. In the two games Thomas missed in March, backup Marcus Smart started in his spot.
Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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