When a Boston reporter trolled Fred Hoiberg over his comments about Isaiah Thomas’s discontinued dribbling, the Bulls coach quickly opted to discontinue his post-game press conference.
The Celtics defeated the Bulls 108-97 at TD Garden on Wednesday thanks in large part to Thomas’s 24 points, five rebounds and four assists. After the game, a reporter from Boston’s WEEI radio asked Hoiberg, “Did you see Isaiah carry the ball at all this game?”
The query, a reference to Hoiberg’s complaints about Thomas’s dribbling mechanics following Boston’s Game 4 win in Chicago on Sunday, prompted the second-year coach to say “No” and briskly exit stage right.
After Game 4, Chicago’s second straight home loss, Hoiberg attempted to work the officials by publicly complaining about Thomas’s alleged carrying.
"Isaiah Thomas is a hell of a player," Hoiberg said. "An unbelievable competitor. He's a warrior [with] everything he's going through right now. He had a hell of a game tonight. But when you're allowed to discontinue your dribble on every possession, he is impossible to guard. He is impossible to guard when you're able to put your hand underneath the ball and take two or three steps and put it back down. It's impossible to guard him in those situations."
Surprisingly, those comments didn’t warrant a fine from the NBA league office, but they did prompt a response from the Celtics’ two-time All-Star point guard.
“I was very surprised,” Thomas said on Tuesday, according to NESN.com. “Out of everything else that I do on the court, you want to bring that up? … I only know one way how to dribble. I’ve been dribbling the same way my whole life. So maybe it was strategic or something. But I don’t think they’ll call anything.”
For the record, Thomas was not whistled for any carrying violations during Game 5. He finished with three turnovers: he lost possession on a drive, he fumbled the ball during a shot fake, and he was whistled for a foul as he jockeyed for position with Bulls guard Isaiah Canaan. In other words, Hoiberg’s attempted gamesmanship goes down as a complete failure: he didn’t get the attention of the league office, he didn’t sway the officials, he didn’t psych out Thomas, and he didn’t really have much choice except to bail on the press conference and minimize the fallout.
Thomas, meanwhile, continues to light up the Bulls and has the Celtics within one victory of a second-round match-up with either the Wizards or Hawks. Through five games, Thomas is averaging a team-best 25.2 PPG, 5.6 APG and 4.2 RPG as he seeks the first postseason series victory of his six-year career.
Game 6 is set for Chicago’s United Center on Friday.