Banged-up Isaiah Thomas: ‘Other guys have to step up’ after Hawks rout Celtics – USA TODAY

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ATLANTA — The Atlanta Hawks did it again to Isaiah Thomas. They surrounded the Boston Celtics point guard, badgered him and made him surrender the basketball here Tuesday night. The Hawks threw double-teams at Thomas and left two defenders on him throughout the pick-and-roll play.

Atlanta forced Thomas to pass the ball to the open man and dared one of the other Celtics to make a shot.

Jae Crowder was 4-of-10. Marcus Smart was 2-of-7. Jared Sullinger was 4-of-9.

Thomas, who was averaging 28 points in the series, made just 3-of-12 shots. He scored seven points as the Hawks regained control of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series with a 110-83 Game 5 victory in Philips Arena.

The Hawks lead the series 3-2.

“That was their game plan. They put two or three guys on me every time I touched the ball,” Thomas said. “Their game plan was to let the other guys beat us. It should be a sign of disrespect to my teammates for them to put two on the ball every time I have it.

“Other guys have to step up and make plays. That’s what it comes down to. If they try to do it again in Game 6, it comes down to other guys making plays. I’m just going to try to get the ball out as quickly as possible out of the trap.”

Thomas is has shot 15-for-48 (31%) in the three games Atlanta has won in the series.

Mike Scott jumped off the bench to fuel a second-quarter takeover of the game. He led the Hawks with 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field.

The Hawks played poorly on offense in the game’s first 17 minutes, shooting just 6-of-34. Then forward Paul Millsap barged down the lane for a basket and Atlanta made 10 straight shots and went from down 29-19 to up 45-35.

The Hawks then buried the Celtics 42-23 in the third quarter.

Thomas left the game with 10:14 remaining after “tweaking” his left ankle. He said it is not anything to keep him from playing Game 6. The Celtics are already playing without guard Avery Bradley, who has a hamstring injury.

Thomas said he had tweaked the ankle earlier in the series, so it looked foolish to see him in a game with the Celtics down 29. But Boston coach Brad Stevens said he wanted to see if there was one more rally in his team. The Celtics came back from 16 down to win Game 4 and from 19 down in Game 1 only to lose 102-101.

There was no rally because the Celtics are a troubled team offensively without Thomas. Boston made 37% of its shots Tuesday night. In Games 1 and 2, the Hawks made it difficult for Thomas and Atlanta won those games, too.

After the game, Thomas said the cure for the double-teams is to not call for the high ball-screen in the pick-and-roll and just create on his own. He tried that Tuesday night several times, but the Hawks rotated toward him.

The 5-9 Thomas left Atlanta guard Dennis Schroder behind with one crossover move and drove to the basket, only to find himself covered up by three defenders 6-5 and taller.

“You have to be aggressive at it or they will just continue to do it,” Thomas said. “I got to figure out ways to beat it and I will. Maybe you don’t call for a pick, just take it yourself.

“Coach said at halftime I’m making the right pass. They’re making other guys make the play. Most of the season I’ve been the guy to make the play. It’s probably tough for some guys in that position, but we got to figure it out.”

Millsap said the Hawks did not have time to practice the double-team in a full-scale workout before Game 5. They just went to it as an adjustment. Thomas is sure to see it again in Game 6.

“It was the game plan,” Millsap said. “It worked.”


Banged-up Isaiah Thomas: ‘Other guys have to step up’ after Hawks rout Celtics – USA TODAY

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