The Boston Celtics may have lost against the Chicago Bulls in the first Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Saturday night, but the basketball community and beyond came together to support Celtics star point guard Isaiah Thomas, who played his heart out just one day after his sister was killed in a tragic car accident.
"Basketball is our sanctuary… It is our safe place." @SHAQ & Charles on the passing of Isaiah Thomas' sister. pic.twitter.com/NhJvqmPf9m
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) April 16, 2017
Thomas struggled with his emotions Saturday night – tearing up before the playoff game began as he looked down at his sneakers, on which he had written “RIP Lil Sis” and “I love you,” The Washington Post reported.
Isaiah Thomas honors his late sister. pic.twitter.com/8kf2FnuWbV
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 16, 2017
Thomas took the court just 37 hours after his 22-year-old sister, Chyna, was killed in a car crash in Washington State, where she and Thomas grew up, NBA.com reported. Chyna Thomas’ car had veered gradually off a highway before vaulting and barrier and crashing through a signpost.
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Thomas learned of his sister’s death after practice on Saturday. The next day, he was expected to play in the first game of the playoffs.
Lead by Isaiah Thomas, the East's top seed @Celtics take the floor! pic.twitter.com/irNEdfdwcJ
— NBA (@NBA) April 16, 2017
Before tipoff, he led the Celtics onto the floor of TD Garden in Boston. A moment of silence was then held before introductions were made.
Isaiah Thomas is introduced in front of his home crowd! #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/mveoz6ffke
— NBA (@NBA) April 16, 2017
Thomas played through his emotions to lead the Celtics with 33 points in 38 minutes. He made 10 out of 18 shots and had six assists and five rebounds.
Isaiah Thomas puts up 33 for the @Celtics on an emotional day. #ItsNotLuck #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/LI1MG8OGIx
— NBA (@NBA) April 17, 2017
“He was incredible,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He’s an amazing, amazing player, amazing person, and days won’t get easier for him. But he somehow plays like that.”
Watch This: Isaiah Thomas hits a 3 from deep, as TD Garden and America erupts with pure emotion. We're all rooting for you Isaiah ? pic.twitter.com/xPZKSExKpu
— Dylan (@DylansFreshTake) April 16, 2017
Ultimately, the Bulls upset the Celtics with a 106-102 victory. But, the scoreboard read “In Memory of Chyna Thomas.”
“The perspective of it all hits you in a hard way,” Stevens said. “I’m not only proud of the effort but the way they supported him. I couldn’t help but be inspired by his play.”
Teammate Al Hortford didn’t make any excuses for the loss but gave props to the All-Star point guard for showing up to play, despite the devastating blow to his family
“We’re never going to make excuses,” said Horford. “But this is hard. This was difficult, and I felt like our guys really dealt with it in the right way. Isaiah is the one that I felt like dealt with it best. We knew he was hurting, it’s not easy, and we have a lot of respect for him that he was able to come out. It’s not an easy task, but he didn’t make excuses and we didn’t either. We really tried to come out here and focus on the game.”
Kevin Durant's message to Isaiah Thomas: The #NBA family is behind you pic.twitter.com/1dttp1zlmj
— KNBR (@KNBR) April 17, 2017
The support for Thomas continued through the league. In the Golden State Warriors post-game conference,. Kevin Durant assured Thomas that his NBA family is behind him as Stephen Curry nodded beside him.
“We’re all praying for him,” Durant said.
Lebron James also offered condolences:
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