“It’s a difficult time for Isaiah and his family, and for us as well,” forward Al Horford said. “We wanted to come out and be able to win this game, because there are bigger things than just basketball. For us, we are not taking it for granted, and we need to really pull through at this time. I feel like this will make us stronger, and we are going to be there to support Isaiah.”
That Thomas played at all was remarkable. Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Thomas was “struggling,” but that the decision was left to Thomas. “As he goes through it,” Stevens said before the game, “if he feels the need to not (play), whatever he wants. One of the things I’ve learned having been through situations in the past, there’s really no right or wrong answer. It’s whatever is right for him.”
Stevens didn’t change that outlook after the game. He said the team would do whatever Thomas needed, and would free him to return home should he choose to do so. Thomas declined to speak with the media after the game.
This is a big departure for Wall, who has typically struggled in the postseason. In his two previous playoff stints, totaling 18 games, Wall averaged 16.7 points and shot 37.6 percent from the field, 20.4 percent from the 3-point line. He appears to have put those struggles behind him, and has been one of the most productive postseason guards when it comes to running the pick-and-roll (12.3 points per game from the play, fifth in the league).
That is a big challenge for the Celtics, who will throw a combination of Avery Bradley and Smart at Wall, who struggled against Boston in the four regular-season games (17.8 points, 37.3 percent shooting, 15.4 from the 3-point line). Wall will attract plenty of defensive attention, but Boston will have to find ways to recover for help on Beal (22.0 points, 47.8 percent 3-point shooting) and Otto Porter (17.0 points, 67.4 percent shooting), because each was especially strong against the Celtics this season.