The Celtics announced Saturday that Thomas, their leading scorer, was out after reaggravating a “right femoral-acetabular impingement with labral tear.”
Even if he had returned to Game 2 with his hip strain, or if he could’ve played against the Cavaliers on Sunday in the third game of this lopsided Eastern Conference final, Thomas alone is not enough to bridge the gap between Cleveland and Boston.
LeBron James and the Cavs have so thoroughly dominated the series they now lead 2-0, with Game 3 headed for their building at 8:30 p.m. ET
“Not 44 points’ worth,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Friday after his team’s historic 130-86 loss to Cleveland in Game 2, when asked if a healthy Thomas could’ve made a difference. “But I don’t want to put that on any one guy. I think ultimately they were terrific, we were poor. You’ve got to be able to pick up the slack certainly when other guys aren’t available. But they were tremendous.
“They’ve taken advantage of us both nights.”
Celtics team physician Dr. Brian McKeon said, “Isaiah has worked tirelessly to manage this injury since it first occurred” in March, and “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.”
Marcus Smart started the second half of Game 2 in place of Thomas.
The Cavaliers’ win in Game 2 was the most lopsided in Eastern Conference finals and in franchise history. It was also the worst playoff loss for Boston — the most decorated franchise in the NBA — at home in team history.
James notched his eighth straight playoff game of at least 30 points, and did it in a 2017 playoff-low 33 minutes.
The Cavs won the first two games in this series by an average of 28.5 points. Sure, the number was skewed by the 44-pointer Friday in Game 2, but Game 1 really wasn’t close, either.
Thomas aggravated the hip strain in Game 6 of Boston’s conference semifinal win over Washington. He was limited to two points in Game 2, and in Game 1 scored 17 on 7-of-19 shooting from the field.
Already overmatched, Boston seems incapable of competing with a healthy Cavs bunch without Thomas and the 28.9 points per game he averaged during the regular season.
“He’s not second-team All-NBA for no reason, top three in the league in scoring,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said. “So he’s a tough cover. The things they run for him put you in bad positions and tough positions, especially with Al Horford being a stretch five. That’s why I’m pleased most of all with our defense and how we just kept reacting and kept moving and kept scrambling.”
Lue was in no mood after Friday’s win to look past this series.
“I don’t care if you win by 200 points,” Lue said. “It’s one game, and we know this team is a very scrappy team.”
The Celtics, after all, did lose the first two games at home to Chicago in the first round and recovered to win the series in six games. Of course, the Bulls lost Rajon Rondo to a broken thumb in Game 2 and the Celtics had Thomas at full tilt, playing like crazy to honor the memory of his sister who died in an auto accident.
This is a totally different scenario. It usually is when James is involved.
James is 73 points from passing Michael Jordan as the NBA’s leading scorer in the playoffs. Hem has scored at least 25 points in every game this postseason and is trying to become the first since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1970 to score 30 in nine straight playoff games.
James is 20-0 when he leads 2-0 in a playoff series. The Cavs are 14-0. Together, they need one more win to set an NBA record for consecutive postseason wins, and would become only the third team in league history to start the playoffs 11-0.
“We can get better,” James said. “That’s the positive for our ballclub. There’s no complacency with us right now. There shouldn’t be. It’s the postseason. But we like where we’re headed and the direction we’re headed right now.”