Isaiah Thomas says Celtics aren't scared of Cavs: 'They're not on Space Jam'
BOSTON — Isaiah Thomas didn’t become a 5-foot-9 NBA superstar by fearing those who were bigger, stronger or more highly touted than him. After his Boston Celtics were by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 117-104 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday, Thomas insisted that they were not demoralized.
“I believe in these guys,” Thomas said at practice on Thursday. “We’re not scared of Cleveland. They’re not the Monstars. They’re not on ‘Space Jam.’ Like, they lace up their shoes just like us. They just happened to play better than us in Game 1, and we’ve just got to protect home court in Game 2 and get the win.”
Thomas said the Celtics can’t panic. They watched the film, and he said he is “very confident” that they will even the series on Friday at TD Garden. In his view, they can execute better, clean up some mistakes and change the whole story. While Cleveland is 9-0 in the playoffs andto slowing James down, Thomas does not want Boston to be seen as just another minor obstacle for the defending champions to overcome.
“We’re not just happy to be here,” Thomas said. “Like, we want to win this series, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We want to let everybody in this world know that we’re for real, and we’re one of the top teams in the NBA, and with this series we’ve got to go out and show the world because like everybody knows, everybody is counting us out. And we’ve been there before, though, so it’s nothing new for us.”
The Celtics are the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but they have taken on the identity of an underdog, repeatedly bringing up the fact that there were doubts after they fell down 2-0 to the Chicago Bulls in the first round and lost Games 3 and 4 in Washington in the second round. Boston rookie Jaylen Brown echoed Thomas when asked about defending James, saying that he “laces his shoes up just like I lace mine up.” He also dismissed the fact that James has a physical advantage over him.
“I don’t really think about it,” Brown said. “I’m just trying to compete. I mean, I’m a competitor, so I don’t look at it as I’m guarding one of the best players in the game. I’m looking at it as I’ve got a job to do, and if I don’t do it, then I’m not going to play. That’s how I see it.”
That’s certainly the right attitude, as the Celtics will be blown out if they don’t believe they can pull off the upset. Coach Brad Stevens, though, acknowledged that the Cavs are “one of the best teams that I’ve ever coached against.” James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving might not be Monstars, but they have rolled through the East without much resistance, at times looking like they must be from another planet.