TORONTO – Marcus Smart and the Boston Celtics aren’t all that different than most Celtics fans.
When the fourth quarter rolls around, they too take a glance at their watches and think … it’s Isaiah Thomas Time.
He was on the floor in the decisive fourth quarter for the Celtics, but you would not have known it by his inability to do what he has done for so much of this season which is dominate play.
And with Thomas unable to take over in the fourth like he’s accustomed to doing, the end result was an all-too-predictable night of late-game struggles as the Toronto Raptors pulled away for a 107-97 win.
Thomas still led the Celtics with 20 points, although only four – that’s almost seven below his league-leading average - came in the fourth quarter.
“Every time I came off a pick, they had two or three guys on me,” Thomas said. “Their point of emphasis was probably to stop me in the fourth quarter and they did a good job of that. They played harder than us in the second half.”
Boston led by as many as 17 points in the first half with solid contributions coming from several players.
But more important, they held their own on the boards while not allowing Toronto many second or third-shot opportunities.
That all changed in the second half.
Toronto became more aggressive defensively, taking away the air space of seemingly every Celtics shooter.
And offensively, DeRozan got hot and when the Celtics took away his drives, he found teammates open for shots that were relatively wide open looks due to them collapsing to help out on DeRozan who led all players with 43 points on 15-for-28 shooting.
Smart had 19 points off the bench on 6-for-15 shooting. Jae Crowder also had 19 points on 6-for-12 shooting for Boston (37-21). And then there was Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown chipping in with 13 points.
Despite their numbers, there was sense that Thomas was getting very little help offensively.
And when you combine that with the team’s overall struggles to play solid defense and rebound the ball, it put the Celtics in a predicament where the clearest path towards victory would once again be Thomas coming through in the fourth quarter.
For those watching the game on CSN, it was an ideal time for Thomas to do what we’ve seen him do time and time again.
But there was a problem.
Apparently too many of his teammates did their share of Thomas-watching down the stretch as well.
“We can’t just depend on Isaiah to save us,” Smart said. “He needs help; other guys need to step up and relieve Isaiah. When he does get that shot, he’s open. They have to watch out for us. We can’t just put it all on Isaiah’s shoulders. Sometimes we get caught doing that instead of helping Isaiah.”