Doubt Thomas No More

I.T. has overcome tremendous adversity in this year’s Playoffs but was still able to contribute a lot to the Celtics qualifying for the Easten Conference Finals. (2017)

Beloved,

Written by

Jude Bautista

I have to confess I am one of many who didn’t give Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas a chance, at least initially. My excuse is that his namesake is my childhood idol. Isiah Lord Thomas III of the Detroit Pistons was a back-to-back champion, twelve time all-star and hall of famer who was also known as the Smiling Assassin. ‘Lord’ is also considered one of the 50 Greatest NBA Players of all time easily the best Detroit Piston ever.

The original Isiah Thomas #11 is a hard act to follow having won back to back championships with the Detroit Pistons 1989-90.

No matter how unfair or even illogical the comparison, there was this feeling that the current Isaiah more popularly known as I.T. would never be as good as the ‘original’. While ‘Lord’ was already considered small at 6’1”, I.T. is even smaller at 5’9”. In a league where NBA guards are 6’4” and even more athletically gifted and fast – John Wall or super shooters like Steph Curry there’s not a lot of fans or pundits who could expect him to excel.

(Unilever Phil tapped 6’4″ Steph Curry to endorse Rexona in basketball crazy Philippines)

But that’s exactly what he did. These days especially with the dramatic Boston win over the Washington Wizards in Game 7 and reaching the Eastern Conference Finals, I.T. is finally getting the attention and respect he deserves.

He averaged 29 points per game this season, but what’s even more impressive is when he scores. He averages 10.1 pts in the 4th quarter. From boston.com: Thomas is averaging more points in the fourth quarter than any NBA player in at least 20 years.

I.T. is the undisputed King of the 4th Quarter ala Game of Thrones.

If he continues his 4thQ excellence he could be the most clutch point guard to ever play the game. This season he also made ALL NBA second team displacing the likes of Chris Paul and Damien Lillard. ALL NBA first team guards were MVP rivals Russell Westbrook who averaged a triple double and James Harden. (courtesy of the STARTERS)

Boston TD Garden –  MAY 15: Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics shoots the ball against the Washington Wizards during Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on May 15, 2017 at TD Garden, Boston MA. Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Name Origin

I.T’s father James Thomas, was a long time L.A. native and Laker fan, moved to Tacoma, Washington. He made a bet with a friend with his son’s name on the line, sure that the Lakers would beat the Pistons in the finals (1989). But the birth came several months earlier than the finals and by then decided to go with it. His mother, Tina Baldtrip, insisted on the biblical spelling and adding an ‘a’, from the Pistons’ Hall of Famer’s version. Thus he was born Isaiah Jamar Thomas. He also adopted the same nickname Zeke apart from ‘Big Head’.

2 SI covers from left: Doc Rivers tried to stop Isiah Thomas, right: Magic Johnson faces defender Bill Laimbeer

College

He took Lord’s number 11 which he used for his high school stint. His mom Tina arranged for IT to meet Isiah Thomas when he was scouting for the Knicks in University of Washington. After the Piston Great gave him an inspiring talk, the two became text mates.

from left: I.T. meets Allen Iverson who is all praises for him photo from documentary BOOK OF ISAIAH.

One of the big influences in his game is Allen Iverson. You can see this when he uses his quickness and crossovers. They met for the first time before the start of this season. A.I. pointing at IT, “This is what makes me happy to be me. Little killers grow up to be real killers. This is it right here, this is the future”, quoted from the preseason docu BOOK OF ISAIAH.

I.T. had a stellar collegiate career in University of Washington earning the PAC-10 Freshman of the Year and ALL PAC 10 in his sophomore and junior years. In spite of this the Sacramento Kings picked him in the second round, 60th overall.

BOSTON, MA – MAY 2: Al Horford #42 of the Boston Celtics reacts during the game against the Washington Wizards during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on May 2, 2017 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Best Record in the East

Since 2016 after being traded from Phoenix to Boston, I.T. was putting up the numbers worthy of a ‘star’ or at least enough to be the Celtics’ leader. THIS was also a break out season for I.T. making his second ALL-STAR appearance. More importantly, the Celtics were winning. Still no one actually believed they could steal the number one record in the East from the mighty Cavs. And yet they manage to do so down the wire. It came down to the last 5 games or so of the season but the Celts manage to get a 53-20 record bettering the Cavs’ 51-31.

Boston’s Starting line up against the Chicago Bulls in the First Round series 2017

Celtics vs Bulls and sister Chyna’s Death

Since Boston was able to garner the best regular season record in the East, most people thought they’d easily win the first round series against the Bulls. Chicago had been in disarray; Rajon Rondo had difficulty adjusting to his new team, Dwyane Wade was also not as dominant as he used to be. But then on April 15, the night before Game 1 of the series, there was tragic news for I.T. Chyna Thomas his half sister (shared the same dad James Thomas), died in a car accident near their hometown of Tacoma, Washington.

Chyna Thomas from her fb profile pic, right: I.T.

In Game 1, I.T. came out to a rousing ovation from Boston fans who appreciated their star point guard suiting up in spite of his personal loss. Dwyane Wade however, overcame the effects of father time by scoring 26 points, 11 Rebounds and 8 assists to lead the Bulls to a 106-102 win. In Game 2 Jimmy Butler and Wade both had 22 pts while Rondo came alive with 14 assists for the Bulls domination: 111-97 of the Celtics. At that point fans and sports analysts started writing them off, saying they were better in the regular season than post.

I.T. by then had flown to Tacoma for his sister’s funeral and was joined by teammates. Most notably Avery Bradley who was his friend since high school. Rondo also injured his hand in Game 2. In Chicago, the Celtics seemed to get things together. Al Horford had a monster game 18 points 8 rebounds. I.T. had a strong second half with a total of 18 pts 9 assists for a Boston win 104-87 in Game 3. Celtics never looked back since then closing out the series 4-2 in Game 6.

from left: Bradley Beal wall paper by Collin Philips
https://mulpix.com/cp.graffix and John Wall wall paper by By Martin Driver http://wallpapersafari.com/w/0rVpHq/

Second Round Underdogs

Although Boston had a deeper bench, almost everyone picked the Wizards in this series. The firepower of what may be the best backcourt in the Eastern conference of John Wall and Bradley Beal would be just too much to handle for any team. And even when the series was tied at 3 a piece with each home team winning- game 7 at the TD Garden, Boston was still the underdogs. Stephen A. Smith (of ESPN) and even former Celtic guard Eddie House still chose the Wizards during a guesting at radio show The Herd.

from right: Isaiah Thomas and John Wall from Getty Images.

The odds were certainly stacked against Boston even if they had home court advantage. In my mind became one of the most dramatic Playoffs Series in recent years. Yes, even more dramatic than the Cavs overcoming Warriors’ 3-1 lead in the finals last year.

I.T. damaged his teeth from an errant elbow from Otto Porter Jr. in Game 2

It’s WAR not the Playoffs

The Boston vs Washington series was tough, physical and old school. This isn’t a competition, its war. People were getting hurt. This harkens to before the hand check rule and flagrant fouls. Although Boston won Game 1 (123-111), I.T. got an inadvertent elbow from Otto Porter knocking one front tooth out cleanly. Two more were damaged but still had to be pulled out. In spite of losing the tooth, he still managed to score 33 points. He also had to endure 10 hours of dental surgery in between games.

John Wall is the fastest player in the NBA.

Game 2 Miracle

Game 2 was one of those nights of destiny, where adversity becomes the fuel for an extraordinary performance. As IF the physical challenges weren’t enough Game 2 was on the birthday of Chyna Thomas, May 2. If she didn’t pass away, 2 weeks before she’d be 23 years old. This was one of those games that would be talked about long after. John Wall was unstoppable scoring 40 points and 13 assists.

Unilever Phil tapped Steph Curry to endorse Rexona in basketball crazy Philippines https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIdzhenIk-E

The TD Garden fell to a hush when I.T. slammed his face on the hard court knowing his teeth had been knocked out the previous game. But the custom mouth guard did its job protecting his teeth although he was still experiencing some pain. But I.T. showed how clutch he really is exploding for 19 points in the 4th Q. He added another crucial 10 points in overtime for 53 points total. It was a magical Celtics win 129-119. I.T. dedicated the game to his sister but also shared in the interview that he was better able to deal with her loss in the arena with his friends and teammates than outside, realizing she was gone.

I.T. scored 53 points in the second round vs Wizards against so much adversity.

BOSTON, MA –  MAY 2: Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics reacts during the game against the Washington Wizards in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on May 2, 2016 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Wizards Comeback

In Game 3 the series would move to Washington’s Verizon Center where they got a boost from their fans. The increasing physicality though would come to a head with Wizards Kelly Oubre’s takedown of Celts Kelly Olynyk after 2 tough screens. Olynyk on the slomos looked like he gave a body check, knocking Oubre down twice. They still appeared to be a legal pick and roll. But by the second time he did it, Oubre had enough and shoved Olynyk to the floor and also hitting the ref in the process. Oubre was immediately ejected from the game but the Wizards still won 116-89.

from left: Bradley Beal wall paper by Collin Philips
https://mulpix.com/cp.graffix and John Wall wall paper by By Martin Driver
https://www.wallpapersafari.com/w/IU9Emn

Wall & Beal show

The team with the home court would win: Game 4 Wizards (121-102), Game 5 Boston (123-101). Game 6 was a show of strength from the Wizards’ backcourt.

Bradley Beal topped all scorers with 33 points. But it was John Wall’s clutch 3 pointer with 3.5 seconds to go that sealed the 92-91 win. After making the last second basket Wall leapt to the scorer’s table screaming, “Not in my house, not in my house!” Thumping his chest as fans went crazy. He finished with 26 points and 8 assists.

John Wall jumped on the scorer’s table after hitting last second shot in Game 6. In the background wearing pink is an Albert Einstein lookalike- from THE STARTERS

Unlikely Heroes in Game 7

Throughout the first half it was an epic battle between John Wall, Bradley Beal and Isaiah Thomas. Each were answering jumpers, treys and lay ups until the 4th quarter when an unlikely hero emerged in Kelly Olynyk. As the defense grew tighter around I.T sometimes triple teaming him, especially on the inside, he had to pass off. He was finding a completely open Olynyk who buried trey after trey. As his confidence grew he would beat Gortat off the dribble for a lay-up. In the end he scored 16 of his 29 points in the 4th quarter as Boston wins the series 115-105.

BOSTON, MA – MAY 15: Kelly Olynyk #41 of the Boston Celtics goes to the basket against the Washington Wizards during Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on May 15, 2017 at TD Garden in Boston, MA. Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

After the game I.T. was asked about their chances against defending champs Cleveland Cavaliers. He answered, “They didn’t give us a chance in this series. They didn’t give us a chance when we were down 2-0 in the Chicago series. We got the number one seed they didn’t give us a chance. They don’t ever give us a chance and we just keep going. We don’t care what others say.”

from left: Celtics Kelly Olynyk is a newer version of Bill Laimbeer, beside him is Rick Mahorn.

Detroit Bad Boys

While I.T. is inevitably compared to the Detroit Pistons great Isiah Thomas, Olynyk also draws comparison to another ‘Bad Boy’- Bill Laimbeer. He too is a 7 foot white guy who has the ability to shoot a 3ptr. Laimbeer was once called the most hated player in the NBA, because of his flopping and knew how to use the rules to his advantage. Although Olynyk has not gotten as tough a reputation, he also had a dangerous play with Kevin Love, both grabbing a loose ball. The Cavs attributed Kevin’s shoulder being dislocated to Olynyk’s rough play.

BOSTON, MA – MAY 15: during Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on May 15, 2017 at TD Garden in Boston, MA.: Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

But just like the Detroit Bad Boys, this Celtic team is gritty, tough and physical with a lot of unlikely heroes. Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder, are both great at defense and offense. Avery Bradley’s consistent outside shooting complements I.T.’s game. Al Horford’s scoring can only improve with more experience in the post season. Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier are good young players they can bank on in the coming years. Maybe they’ll win a championship or two just like the Detroit Bad Boys.

The Detroit Bad Boy’s were back to back Champs 1989-90.

Conclusion-Future Looks Green

Whether or not the Boston Celtics win the series against the Lebron led Cavaliers is almost immaterial. Losing the series to the defending champs does not diminish their accomplishments. This has been an incredible year, where they have definitely overachieved. People will look back on this Playoff run and see this is when they made the world take notice.

Check out the official Tanduay YouTube channel for refreshing cocktail drink recipes
https://www.youtube.com/user/tanduayrhumofficial

What we’ve seen from Isaiah is that he has proven he is among the elite. He has helped make the Boston Celtics one of the top four teams in the league. GM Danny Ainge has a lot to smile about too when they drew the top pick in the upcoming draft.

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Childhood friends Isiah Thomas kiss Magic Johnson before tipoff in the finals-1989.

Tanduay Rhum is the drink of choice for Derek Ramsay – from The One TVC https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kw_w-EGa4zE

tumblr:

http://judebautista.tumblr.com/

Kelly Olynyk was an unlikely hero of Game 7 in the second round against the Wizards. http://backgrounds4k.net/boston-celtics/

from left: Isaiah Thomas and John Wall from Getty Images.

flickr:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/14686025@N00/

I.T. wall paper by Dani3lson on DeviantArt
https://wallpapersafari.com/isaiah-thomas-wallpaper/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/14686025@N00/

http://judebautista.tumblr.com/

I.T.’s newest moniker: Lil Big Shot

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