After missing the last two games with a bruised right knee, Isaiah Thomas has been cleared to return against the Wizards.
The Celtics All-Star point guard injured the knee in last Wednesday’s win over the Timberwolves and missed Friday’s win in Brooklyn and Sunday’s loss in Philadelphia.
“Yep,” was Brad Stevens one-word answer in the affirmative when asked if the guard would be back in the lineup against a Washington team that is 1.5 games behind the Celtics in the race for the No. 2 spot in the East.
Stevens said Thomas received plenty of treatment for the bruised knee over the weekend, making the most of time away playing.
“Feeling a lot better,” Stevens said. “I think all the treatment over the weekend, which he had a ton of, was all positive. He’s good to go.”
Thomas sounded a bit more cautious, admitting that he wasn’t at full strength yet, “but I’m good enough.”
Then he added, “I can’t sit this one out. I know what’s at stake. I know it’s a big game for us.”
Stevens added that he doesn’t anticipate a minutes restriction for Thomas, who leads the team in playing time at 34.1 minutes a game.
“I don’t think so,” Stevens said. “I haven’t heard that from the training staff. Usually, the minutes restriction is as much to do [with] extended periods of time as anything else.”
Stevens was asked if he could tell Thomas was ready based on the team’s walkthrough Monday.
“Well, our walkthrough happened at about 4:45 [p.m.] and it was a WALK through so I think he looked great,” Stevens said. “But I have no idea how that translates to playing in a stance or running up and down the floor but I’ve been told he’s fine.”
On the importance of holding off Washington for the second seed in the East.
“I think it’s about playing good basketball,” Stevens said. “That stuff sorts itself out. Obviously, you want to be as good of a seed as you can. There’s no question about that. Again, I’d like to have some healthy games here to play good basketball and see if we can’t figure ourselves out as we head into the next month, plus.”
Monday’s game is the opener of a season-long six-game home stand. Entering Monday, the Wizards and Pacers (Wednesday) were the only team with a winning record of the six teams. Much has been made of the newly-created rivalry in the media between the Celtics and Wizards, featuring Isaiah Thomas and John Wall. A battle for playoff position only fuels it.
“My focus is on playing good basketball,” Stevens said. “When I think of rivalries, I think of years upon years upon years in the making. Certainly, we have a great deal of respect for how good these guys are. And that’s that. But we’ve got to focus on trying to do our best to play as well as we can against them, which means a lot of the focus has to be on what we’re trying to accomplish, and they’re going to be doing the same on their end.
“Maybe the players would say different but I don’t feel any different. I prepare for all 82 [games] the exact same. I think the biggest thing is if we don’t play well, we’ll get beat. That’s proven itself true over and over. And if we do play well, we’ll have a chance to win.”
Does Stevens say anything to remind the players to keep their cool after the smack talk between the two this season?
“I think they remember that probably, [so] no,” Stevens said.
The Celtics fell Sunday in Philadelphia as they blew a 10-point third quarter lead in a 105-99 loss.
“I remember the losses vividly and go through them all. But yeah, those are tough and you move on,” Stevens said. “You show your team what you need to show them and move on, and try to get a little bit better from it. We played really well in the middle of that game. But we played really careless in the middle of the third quarter and the early parts of the fourth. Then when it’s five minutes left, it’s anybody’s game. You’ve put yourself in a tough spot.”
Source: GreenStreet Blog