Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas had a chance to rest, recover, and watch plenty of basketball since being sidelined with a lower-back bruise suffered in a March 9 win over the Heat. He also had him plenty of time to watch a replay of his injury, and it left a sour taste.
With 3:44 remaining in that game, Thomas was fouled by Miami guard Dwyane Wade, and Thomas’s back and elbow struck the floor as he landed. Upon review, Thomas had no issue with the foul — Wade was simply going for a block. But he didn’t appreciate what happened next.
“The only thing I thought about when I watched the film was how [Wade] looked at me after,” Thomas said.
Video shows Wade appearing to drop the ball on Thomas — or at the very least letting it fall on him — and then stare at him for a moment. Thomas’s return, coincidentally enough, came against the Heat on Wednesday night at TD Garden.
Thomas said he was seeking a win and payback. But he got neither, as Wade sat out with a sore knee, and the Heat took a 93-86 win anyway. To make matters worse, Thomas struggled mightily, finishing with 4 points, 3 turnovers, and no assists in 20 minutes.
“It was tough for me,” Thomas said afterward, “probably one of my worst games I’ve ever played.”
Before the game, Thomas said he was mostly worried about how his body would respond to its first fall. But by the time he hit the floor after taking a charge, he had moved on.
“I was playing so bad, I didn’t really care about the fall, honestly,” Thomas said.
Thomas said he underwent treatment twice a day since his injury, and although he feels much better than he did two weeks ago, he still does not feel like himself.
“But I’m able to play, so it’s improved a lot from the day that it happened or the day after,” Thomas said. “But it’s still going to be a process. If I was trying to be 100 percent, I probably wouldn’t play the rest of the year.”
Thomas received an ovation from the crowd when he checked into the game with 6:21 left in the first quarter, but he was noticeably rusty. He missed his first shot, a 3-point attempt, and went 0 for 3 from the foul line in the opening quarter. He later air-balled a 3-pointer.
“One thing about me, I’ve got a short memory, whether good or bad,” Thomas said, “so I’ll be all right.”
Struggling at the line
As the Celtics tried to charge back from a 22-point deficit they did not help themselves at the free throw line, as they made just 25 of 37 foul shots.
“You could chalk it up maybe as just one of those nights, but as a coach, that’s like the most depressing crutch ever to say that,” Brad Stevens said. “We just didn’t get it done.”
For the season, the Celtics are tied for 19th in the NBA with a 74.6 free throw shooting percentage.
On second thought
The Celtics have thrived recently when playing the second of two games on back-to-back nights, going 8-1 in their last nine tries. The surge has not been lost on Stevens.
“I did tell our guys it’s OK to think every day is a second of a back-to-back,” Stevens quipped. “We may just start going full-on scrimmaging the night before games, but we’ll see.”
Stevens was joking, of course.
Among the missing
One night after losing to the Bucks on Khris Middleton’s wild, buzzer-beating 3-pointer, the Heat came to Boston with an undermanned squad.
Wade sat out with a swollen left knee and center Hassan Whiteside sat out after receiving 10 stitches on his lacerated hand. He suffered the injury on Tuesday, when his hand struck the rim.
“He’s extremely sore today,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Also, forward Chris Andersen missed the game because of a left calf contusion.
Follow Adam Himmelsbach on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.