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Isaiah Thomas: ‘Other guys have to step up and make plays, that’s what it comes down to’

04.27.16 at 1:22 am ET
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Isaiah Thomas scored a season-low seven points Tuesday night. (Brett Davis/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas scored a season-low seven points Tuesday night. (Brett Davis/USA Today Sports)

ATLANTA — For just the second time during the 2015-16 campaign, Isaiah Thomas failed to reach double digits, finishing with a season-low seven points during his Celtics’ 110-83, Game 5 loss to the Hawks on Tuesday night at Phillips Arena.

Thomas also clocked in with a minus-33 in his 29 minutes, the worst plus-minus number of any Celtics player during a postseason game since the stat started being charted in 1985. But after the game, Thomas — whose exit from the game came after he hurt his left ankle in the fourth quarter — was all about what how the Hawks played him, and how his teammates did, or didn’t, respond.

“That was their game plan. They put two or three guys on me every time I touched the ball,” Thomas said. “Their game plan was to let the other guys beat us. It should be a sign of disrespect to my teammates to put two on the ball every time I have it. Other guys have to step up and make plays, that’s what it comes down to. If they try and do it again in Game 6, it comes down to other guys making plays. I’m just going to try and get the ball out as quickly as possible, out of the trap, out of the two or three guys on me. But other guys have to make shots, and other guys have to make plays for us to win.

“It’s tough for me because I feel like I can score on anything. But as a point guard I have to make the right play and I’ve got to trust my teammates. And I know once my teammates do knock down shots, or make the right play out of the double team, it’s going to open up for me throughout the game. Today it didn’t happen. But we knew they would make adjustments, and now we have to make adjustments and other guys have to step up.”

The Hawks’ strategy was apparent early on, with Thomas not able to freelance through the Atlanta defense as he had done for much of the series. Thomas failed to score a single point in the first half, marking the third time this season that has happened. This time it lead to the Celtics scoring just 39 points, while carrying an eight-point deficit into halftime.

“A team never really did what Atlanta did [Tuesday],” Thomas said. “They really had two or three guys on me the whole time. Face-guarding me. When I got it they showed all five guys. They weren’t worried about anybody else. Guys have to adjust. Guys have to make plays. And once we make shots, like we do at home, and make plays, like we do at home, they can’t do that.”

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Isaiah Thomas on ankle injury: ‘I’ll play no matter what’

04.26.16 at 11:27 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas

With 10:14 remaining in a playoff game the Celtics trailed by 29 points, Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas landed awkwardly on his left ankle, suffering a mild ankle sprain.

“With this team, I’ve seen just enough crazy stuff to think that we might be able to get back in it and give them a chance from 12 [minutes] to nine or eight, just to see if it could happen,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens after the Game 5 loss. “He had a sub at the table when it happened, so I know that’s quite a task and quite a mountain to overcome, but we’ve all seen this team do some pretty crazy things when they’re down.”

Except, it was clear the Celtics were gassed from the second quarter on — Thomas in particular. The All-Star point guard was scoreless at the half and finished with a season-low seven points on 12 shots, not returning after the injury. We can debate whether Thomas should’ve been in the game, but what’s done is done entering Game 6.

Asked if Thomas would be ready for Game 6, Stevens added, “I’m not qualified to answer that question,” but with the season on the line in Boston on Thursday night, it’s hard to imagine Thomas won’t give it a go, even on a bum ankle. He told reporters he merely tweaked his ankle and would be playing Thursday, come hell or high water.

“I’m doing great, ready for Game 6,” he told the media. “Yeah, I’ll play no matter what. I’m not going to sit out. I just tweaked it. I had tweaked it in Game 4 as well, in the fourth quarter, so I just tweaked it again. It hurt right when it happened, but I came back here and iced it. I’ll be all right. For the most part, the swelling is all right. I don’t swell that much, but hopefully it doesn’t get any worse by tomorrow, which it probably will, but I’ll just get treatment all day tomorrow and before the game on Thursday.”

The question is how effective he’ll be. The C’s got a taste of what their offense may look like sans Thomas at full strength in Game 5, and the reviews came back with zero stars.

Studs and Duds: Celtics, Isaiah Thomas (injured) come up empty, blown out in Game 5

04.26.16 at 10:59 pm ET
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Celtics guard Evan Turner (11) is defended by Atlanta Hawks forward Kent Bazemore (24) in the second quarter in game five of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics guard Evan Turner is defended by Hawks forward Kent Bazemore in the second quarter of Tuesday’s Game 5. (Brett Davis/USA Today Sports)

A promising night turned into a disaster for the Celtics. 

Kent Bazemore keyed a 26-6 run in the first half to turn a 10-point Celtic lead into a 10-point Atlanta advantage. Then the Hawks caught fire in the third quarter, using an 18-1 run to blow Tuesday’s Game 5 wide open en route to a 110-83 rout of the Celtics at Philips Arena and a 3-2 series lead. 

Isaiah Thomas, the leading scorer in the NBA playoffs so far, had one of the worst nights in a Celtics uniform, going scoreless in the first half and finishing with just seven points on 3-of-12 shooting before leaving with what the team called a “mild” left ankle sprain with 10 minutes left in the game. 

With Paul Millsap in check at 10 points, Mike Scott came off the bench to lead Atlanta with 17. Bazemore and Jeff Teague had 16 for the Hawks, who went 14-of-36 from 3-point range. 

The Celtics started off nearly as cold in Game 5 as they did their last game in Atlanta. But unlike Game 2, they didn’t fall behind 21 in the first six minutes. They did open the game 2-for-10 but Marcus Smart continued his 3-point rhythm from Game 4, knocking down a pair of threes in the opening quarter. The two teams combined to miss 18 of their first 22 shots.

The Celtics used a three from Jae Crowder with 31.1 seconds left in the first quarter to reclaim the lead. Terry Rozier hit a circus bank shot on a drive to the basket to give Boston a 20-15 lead after one quarter. 

Al Horford (0-for-8) and Paul Millsap (0-for-4) combined to miss their first 12 shots of the game before a layup by Millsap with six minutes left in the second quarter. The Celtics built a 29-19 lead on the ice cold shooting of the Hawks, who began the game 6-for-34. 

Then the game turned suddenly and dramatically on a 26-6 Hawks run, sparked by Bazemore, who drilled three 3-pointers in the surge. Mike Scott gave Atlanta a 32-30 lead on a turnaround with 3:40 left in the second quarter. The Celtics quickly regained the lead but the Hawks answered with 16 of the next 18 points for a 45-35 lead. The Hawks were not threatened the rest of the way and led 47-39 at the half. 

Bazemore was 5-of-10 from the field and 4-of-7 from deep in the first half and single-handedly turned the momentum of the game for the Hawks. Atlanta was kept in the game by Boston relying too heavily on the three. They missed 14 of their 18 tries from beyond the arc. 

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Follow Celtics-Hawks Game 5 live

04.26.16 at 7:14 pm ET
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Live Blog Celtics-Hawks Game 5 LIVE

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Celtics coach Brad Stevens finishes sixth in NBA Coach of the Year voting

04.26.16 at 3:35 pm ET
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Brad Stevens

Brad Stevens

Celtics fans believe they have the best coach in the NBA prowling their sidelines. The Coach of the Year voters strongly disagree.

Fresh off a season that saw him take the Celtics to the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, as well as a seven-win improvement over last year, C’s coach Brad Stevens finished a surprising sixth in the NBA Coach of the Year voting on Tuesday.

Golden State’s Steve Kerr won the award despite missing the first 43 games of the season with a back injury (Luke Walton, the fill-in who went 39-4 in his absence, earned five points). Kerr’s win was no surprise, given Golden State’s record-breaking 73-win season.

Kerr earned 64 first-place votes and 381 points, outdistancing second-place finisher Terry Stotts of the Blazers, who overcame the loss of free agent big man LaMarcus Aldridge to lead Portland to 44 wins and the fifth seed in the Western Conference.

Stevens earned five first-place votes and 74 points, finishing behind San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich (166), Charlotte’s Steve Clifford (98), and Toronto’s Dwane Casey (83) as well in the balloting of 130 broadcasters and journalists.

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Join Mike Petraglia for Celtics-Hawks Game 5 preview live chat at noon

04.26.16 at 11:17 am ET
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Live Blog Mike Petraglia LIVE chat Celtics-Hawks Game 5 preview

WEEI’s Celtics writer and columnist Mike Petraglia will field your questions and comments and help break down everything Celtics-Hawks related for Game 5 Tuesday night in Atlanta. Join him on the WEEI Green Street live chat at noon. 

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As Celtics face Game 5 on road, Brad Stevens raves about fans, TD Garden atmosphere: ‘It was incredible’

04.25.16 at 9:31 pm ET
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Celtics mascot Lucky runs with a banner during the second half in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics mascot Lucky runs with a banner during the second half of Sunday’s Game 4 against the Hawks at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

If only the Celtics could bottle up the electric, deafening atmosphere from TD Garden and bring all the fans with them for Game 5, leaning on them like they did in the 104-95 overtime win Sunday.

“I think it’s less about where it is and more about how you play,” the always calm and cool Brad Stevens said Monday. “At the same time, I certainly haven’t been in many playoff environments like the last two games. It was incredible.”

There no doubt will be noise inside Philips Arena for the pivotal swing game in the series, but it won’t be nearly as intense as what the Hawks experienced in Games 3 and 4. 

As a matter of fact, when the series opened in Atlanta on April 16, there were hundreds of empty seats with neon yellow shirts on them. The Hawks attempted to hide the fact that Atlanta, a notoriously passive sports town, wasn’t fully behind its NBA team in the first round of the playoffs. 

The Hawks managed to hold serve at home with wins in the first two games. 

When the series shifted to Boston last Friday, the decibel level went through the roof. The Celtics responded with a 37-20 quarter right out of the chute. They held on for a 111-103 win. The crowd rewarded that with an even crazier atmosphere in Game 4, when Patriots owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and players Rob Gronkowski and LeGarrette Blount showed up.

The Hawks might not have noticed the Patriotic impact, but they sure heard it. When Isaiah Thomas drained a 3 from the right baseline in in front of Belichick in the final minute of overtime, the Garden was literally shaking. 

“Oh yeah, they have a great crowd and they really fed off of it,” Kyle Korver said. “When your crowd’s screaming behind you, the basket seems bigger and there’s a lot more adrenaline, and they played really well here. Give them credit.”

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