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2017 NBA Playoffs

Five thoughts on Isaiah Thomas’ 53-point game for Celtics on his late sister’s birthday

The death of Chyna Thomas has driven — not stopped — the star guard in the NBA playoffs

“Where is this coming from? Where is this coming from?” asked TNT sideline reporter David Aldridge after the Boston Celtics’ exhilarating 129-119 overtime win over the Washington Wizards in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Tuesday night.

The question was posed to Isaiah Thomas, who put up an unbelievable 53 points on what he revealed to Aldridge was a special night.

“It’s my sister. It’s her birthday today. Happy birthday. She would’ve been 23 today. Everything I do is for her, and she’s watching over me, so that’s all her,” Thomas said.

The most heart-wrenching story of this postseason has been the narrative of Isaiah Thomas. The day before the Celtics’ playoff opener, his 22-year-old sister, Chyna Thomas, was killed in a single-car accident in their home state of Washington. Since then, Thomas has led his team to six wins while not missing a game. He traveled home for Chyna’s funeral. He even had a tooth knocked out of his mouth, which required two rounds of surgery.

Here are five quick thoughts on what Thomas has meant to me, basketball and the city of Boston during the playoffs.

1. Isaiah thought about quitting — we’re lucky he didn’t

The day before Boston’s second-round playoff series against Washington began, Thomas made the 3,000-mile trip to Tacoma, Washington, where he delivered his sister’s eulogy.

In his remarks, Thomas revealed that Chyna’s death made him want “to give up and quit,” as reported by ESPN’s Chris Forsberg. But “quitting isn’t an option,” Thomas said. “That’s the easy way out. I will keep going for my sister.”

Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas (4) drives into Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (13) during the fourth quarter in game two of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The day after the funeral, Thomas was back in Boston and led the Celtics with 33 points in a Game 1 win over the Wizards.

2. it4’s 53 points reminded me of cp3’s 61

On Nov. 17, 2002, 17-year-old West Forsyth High School point guard and senior class president Chris Paul (a future top-five NBA draft pick and nine-time All-Star) dropped 61 points two days after his grandfather, Nathaniel Jones, was beaten to death. Jones was 61 when he was slain, and in Paul’s first game back on the court he dropped a point for every year Jones lived.

I couldn’t help but think of Paul’s triumphant night from 15 years ago when Thomas shared the significance of the night during which he poured in 53 points.

May 2, 2017, will now forever be etched in my mind with Nov. 17, 2002, as a day during which basketball was, in its truest form, catharsis: an emotional release from the pain life can bring.

3. THOMAS has been the mvp of the playoffs

The MVP of the 2016-17 NBA season has already been determined. Either James Harden or Russell Westbrook will be announced as the winner during the first NBA Awards Show on June 26.

As for the MVP of the playoffs — so far, it’s Thomas. Yes, Westbrook averaged a triple-double in the first round before the Houston Rockets knocked out the Oklahoma City Thunder. Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Curry have been spectacular too.

But no player has scored more points in a game during these playoffs than Thomas’ 53. (Westbrook scored 51 in Game 2 of the first round against the Rockets.) And no player has had a night of this caliber after attending a loved one’s funeral. “A lot of guys wouldn’t have even played this game,” Celtics teammate Al Horford said of Game 2.

Another fact: According to ESPN Stats & Information, Thomas is just the second player in NBA history 6 feet or shorter to score 50 in a playoff game. The other? Allen Iverson.

So the “M-V-P!” chants for Thomas from fans at TD Garden in the final moments of Game 2 were certainly justified.

4. in a tough time, The city of boston needed Isaiah thomas

On Monday, Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones was the target of racial taunts, including being called the “N-word a handful of times” and having a bag of peanuts hurled in his direction from the crowd at Boston’s Fenway Park. New York Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia spoke out in the wake of Jones’ experience, saying that dealing with racism in Boston is nothing new to black ballplayers. “When you go to Boston, expect it,” Sabathia told reporters.

Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics celebrates with fans at the end the Celtics 129-119 overtime win over the Washington Wizards in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at TD Garden on May 2, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The day after Jones was subjected to racial prejudice at Fenway, less than 3 miles away at TD Garden, an African-American man led the city’s NBA team to an exultant win. So Game 2 was about much more than Thomas’ 53 points and the Celtics’ 2-0 series lead. During a tough time for many in Boston, Thomas put on not only for his sister but for an entire culture.

5. Isaiah thomas will one day get a 30 for 30

Thomas’ story — from being the last player selected in the 2011 NBA draft, to being traded twice, and now leading the Celtics as the face of a franchise — is one of the best stories we’ve seen in sports in quite some time. And the way he’s handled the loss of his sister is the latest chapter.

Aaron Dodson is a sports and culture writer at Andscape. He primarily writes on sneakers/apparel and hosts the platform’s Sneaker Box video series. During Michael Jordan’s two seasons playing for the Washington Wizards in the early 2000s, the “Flint” Air Jordan 9s sparked his passion for kicks.