2017 Eastern Conference Finals: Does Isaiah Thomas’ Absence Improve the Celtics’ Chances Against the Cavaliers?

Many things became clear after the Celtics’ Game 3 victory of 111 – 108 against the Cavaliers, a game which has lessened Cleveland’s domination of a 2 – 0 lead to 2 – 1 in the finals for the Eastern Conference.  
Firstly, without LeBron James playing his best game, the Cavaliers really struggle. Second, Marcus Smart can be relied on to provide a hefty contribution to the points total. Thirdly, Jonas Jerebko should have played more minutes for the Celtics, as the team was in desperate need for his ability to rebound, and make shots. And, last but not least, the Celtics are a different team without Isaiah Thomas.

A Complicated Answer

Are the Celtics a better team when playing without Isaiah Thomas, who is said to be badly missing his team? He has been a sensational player over the course of this season, and will finish with at least a 5th position on voters’ ballots for Most Valuable Player. He has proven without a doubt that he is one of the league’s best scorers over a phenomenal series of plays, but the game changes when one takes into account the matchups, the roster, and the playoffs.
His absence has definitely changed things, but not necessarily for either better or worse. In fact, this occurrence may well end up benefitting his team.

The Celtics are Playing Differently
In this game, the Celtics pushed the pace, managed to get into their sets more quickly, and did not get bogged down with their superstar player’s constant dribbles of the ball. They were forced to move the ball more quickly, because no one was going to be able to make an isolation play. Punters who enjoy online betting NZ basketball options certainly sat up and took notice of this difference in play, as changes like this can mean the difference between a winning and losing wager.

On the side of defensive playing, the difference in the Celtics’ game was even more pronounced. While Cleveland played exceptionally well in the game’s first half, it was unsustainable, and the Celtics changed their game. They were not faced with massive mismatches, nor were they required to over-help, and they stepped up with a defensive rating of 93.6 during the 2nd half. This is even more exceptional when one compares this to the rating of 132 in Game 2.

The Changes are as Clear as Night and Day
The ball moved far more often, and it was the Celtics accomplishing this, as they managed time and time again to get ahead of Cleveland’s rotations. While these outlier performances will likely not hold, this does show that the team from Boston managed to play in a manner that called for far more interesting setups. However they perform in the 4th and 5th games, it won’t change the way they played this one.

This is also what happens when a star player is no longer available, and has been shown before with Kawhi Leonard and the Western Conference semi-finals against the Rockets. Having to deal with a team that no longer has a star player present demands a change in approach, and the Warriors’ win in the 2nd Game of the Western Conference Finals should actually be held as more impressive than it was. It is much more difficult to get up for games like this, and this fact has been proven time and time again.

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