Isaiah Thomas has been a member of the Celtics for about six weeks now, but outside of Boston fans and hardcore league observers, his contributions to the Celtics' playoff push have gone mostly under the radar.
That changed a bit after Thomas' coming-out party on national TV as Boston beat Detroit 113-103 Wednesday on ESPN. Thomas was fantastic, finishing with 34 points on 10-for-17 shooting and six assists off the bench. Boston outscored the Pistons by 35 points in his 30 minutes, and his 23 second-half points helped the Celtics pull away.
So, the Celtics first look at national TV Isaiah Thomas went pretty well.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) April 9, 2015
The breakout performance on the national stage brings to mind the Celtics' last point guard, Rajon Rondo. The mercurial star was typically at his best when the lights shone brightest or the stakes were raised - remember him eviscerating LeBron James and the Cavaliers for 29 points, 13 assists and 18 rebounds in the 2010 playoffs? Or how about that 44-point, 10-assist, eight-rebound outing against the Heat in 2012?
Even since moving on to Dallas, Rondo saved his best for the biggest stage - he made a career-high five 3-pointers and scored 29 points in his return to Boston, likely his best game as a Maverick to date.
But Thomas has found success in one play that gave Rondo trouble this year - the pick and roll:
Isaiah Thomas vs. Rajon Rondo pick-and-roll play this season in Boston: pic.twitter.com/Z8AGNqOV7o— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) April 9, 2015
Among players who have conducted 100 pick and rolls as the ball handler, Thomas is second in the NBA in points per possession, trailing only Lou Williams. Thomas is a capable player in isolation, but getting him involved with a screener enhances his abilities.
Boston's offense has adapted since Rondo's departure, and that should continue based on what we've seen from Thomas in pick-and-roll situations. If he can keep his play up, he'll have plenty of more national TV appearances to shine in.
Photo credit: Duane Burleson, Associated Press ImagesDan Hoppen 4/10/2015 09:26:00 AM Tweet Edit