Point guard Isaiah Thomas scored a team-high 33 points Sunday in Game 1 of the Boston Celtics‘ first-round playoff match up with the Chicago Bulls, one day after the death of his sister in a one-car crash.
Thomas, overcome with emotions multiple times before the start of the game, finished on 10-of-18 shooting with six assists and five rebounds over 38 minutes.
The Bulls emerged with a 106-102 triumph and lead the series 1-0. Game 2 is Tuesday night at TD Garden.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Thomas was “struggling” prior to the game, and it showed early, as he uncharacteristically missed his first free throw attempt short off the front rim.
How he was able to lock in down the stretch was no surprise to his coach.
“[Thomas] was incredible,” Stevens said. “He’s an amazing, amazing player. Amazing person. … I couldn’t help but be inspired by his play.”
The Celtics held a pregame moment of silence for Chyna Thomas, who died early Saturday in a one-car interstate accident in their home state of Washington. She was 22. Thomas was informed of her death following the team’s practice Saturday afternoon.
It was unclear if he’d play Sunday, and prior to the game, television cameras captured teammate Avery Bradley comforting Thomas on the bench during the pregame shootaround. But Thomas led the team onto the floor and got a huge ovation from the Boston crowd. He was the last of the Celtics’ starters to be introduced and was immediately surrounded by his teammates. He bowed his head throughout the tribute, and tears dripped down his cheek.
On his sneakers were written several messages, including “Chyna,” “R.I.P. Lil Sis” and “I love you.”
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— ESPN (@espn) April 16, 2017