WASHINGTON—Isaiah Thomas shook off having a tooth knocked out and the heartache of his sister’s funeral to score 33 points Sunday, powering the Boston Celtics over Washington 123-111 in an NBA playoff game.
Thomas went 11-of-23 from the floor, 6-of-7 from the free throw line and contributed nine assists as the Celtics battled back after surrendering the game’s first 16 points to beat the visiting Wizards in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference second round opener.
“It was a team effort,” Thomas said. “We got down big. We didn’t give up. We didn’t put our head down. From the first guy to the last, everybody contributed and we got the win.”
The Boston guard flew across the country to play after speaking Saturday at his sister Chyna’s funeral in Washington state. She was killed two weeks ago in a car accident.
“Basketball, when I’m on the court, it just keeps me going,” Thomas said. “I do everything for my sister now and that’s all I can do. That’s all I can do.”
In the weekend’s only other playoff game, the Utah Jazz beat the Los Angeles Clippers 104-91 to win their first-round Western Conference series 4-3. They will face NBA win leader and defending conference champion Golden State in the second round starting Tuesday.
Thomas napped at home and on the flight to Boston and ignored coach Brad Stevens saying he didn’t have to play.
“It’s tough, but it’s the playoffs,” Thomas said. “No excuses. I decided to play and I just tried to give it all I got for my team, and we came out with the win.”
Thomas also had his left front tooth knocked out after being struck in the face by an elbow from Washington’s Otto Porter midway into the first quarter.
Thomas saw his tooth pop out and fall onto the court and, not missing a beat, went over and picked up the tooth off the floor and later handed it to a Celtics trainer, broadly displaying a bloodied gap-toothed smile on the bench after going 3-for-3 following the dental mishap and leading all first-half scorers with 19 points.
“It just bothers me to talk,” Thomas said. “My tongue goes right through my tooth… I’ve always had teammates that I’ve always clowned them about their tooth being out, and now I’m one of them. Hopefully, we can replace it as soon as possible.”
The effort by Thomas left both coaches awestruck.
“I don’t know (how Thomas does it). I wish I had that kind of character,” Stevens said.
“Just been in continual amazement the last couple of weeks with his ability to function and excel on the basketball court. Today is just another chapter of that.”
“He’s one of the biggest winners in this league,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “He plays with everything he has. I can’t imagine being able to do it myself if I were in the same situation.”
The Celtics outscored Washington 36-16 in the third quarter, in which they seized their first lead at 73-71 and stretched it to 95-80 entering the fourth before holding off the Wizards down the stretch.
Jae Crowder added 24 points for the Celtics while center Al Horford had 21 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.
Bradley Beal scored 27 points while John Wall added 20 points and 16 assists.
Washington’s Markieff Morris injured his left ankle when he landed on Horford’s foot after a second-quarter jump shot. Morris said he will play in game two Tuesday but medical tests will be done Monday.
‘It was a battle’
At Los Angeles, Utah’s Derrick Favors came off the bench to score 17 points and grab 11 rebounds after Rudy Gobert got into early foul trouble while Gordon Hayward added 26 points as the Jazz pulled away in the third quarter to oust the Clippers from the playoffs.
The Jazz, who had not won a playoff series since 2010, led 96-80 with 5:30 remaining before the Clippers made a closing charge, pulling within 98-90 on J.J. Redick’s 3-pointer with 3:28 remaining but coming no closer.
“It was a battle,” Hayward said. “The whole series was a battle. Tonight was no different. It was fun out there though. A great win for us. We believed in ourselves. That was the biggest thing.”
DeAndre Jordan led the Clippers with 24 points and 17 rebounds.