BOSTON – Isaiah Thomas took the floor to a deafening cheer for the Boston Celtics’ playoff game against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, a day after his sister died in a one-car accident in Federal Way.
It was part of an emotional day for the All-Star guard, who had 33 points, six assists and five rebounds in a 106-102 loss to the Bulls in Game 1 of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series.
The Celtics held a pregame moment of silence for Chyna Thomas, who was 22. Thomas, a former Washington Huskies standout from Tacoma, was informed of her death after the Celtics’ practice Saturday afternoon.
Several messages were written on Thomas’ shoes Sunday, including “Chyna,” “RIP Lil Sis” and “I love you.”
Before the game, TNT showed Boston teammate Avery Bradley — a former player at Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma — comforting Thomas on the bench during a shoot-around. Thomas led the team out of the tunnel for pregame warmups.
Thomas, 28, did not address media afterward, but teammates talked about the emotion of the day.
“Isaiah, to me, is like family,” Bradley said. “We grew up in the same area. I know it’s tough for him. It says a lot about him. He’s a true competitor and tonight he was playing for his sister and he was playing for his family.”
Of Thomas’ performance against Chicago, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, “He was incredible. He’s an amazing player, amazing person. And days won’t get any easier for him, but he somehow plays like that.”
Stevens said Thomas has freedom to do “whatever he needs to do” in terms of family matters. Stevens said decisions on the player’s availability are Thomas’ alone.
Before the game, Stevens said, “He’s struggling. Obviously, it’s tragic circumstances that he and his family are going through right now. Our thoughts, first and foremost, are with them.”
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Jimmy Butler led Chicago with 30 points and added nine rebounds.
The Bulls, seeded eighth in the East, outrebounded top-seeded Boston 53-36.
“We were so locked in all week,” Butler said. “We knew their stuff, just like they knew ours. But we executed extremely well. We haven’t done that all season, but this is the right time to do it.”
Boston led 88-87 with 5:33 to go before the Bulls went on a 14-4 run to surge in front.
Chicago was able to win despite missing its first 11 three-point shots.