WASHINGTON — As much as every point, assist and drive to the basket was par for the course for eight-year NBA veteran Isaiah Thomas, almost nothing could have prepared him for a night in which the routine that he settled in for many years became far from routine.
Thomas, making his first start in more than a year, had nine points and six assists, contributing to the Washington Wizards’ 115-99 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night at Capital One Arena in Washington D.C. Thomas’ backcourt mate, Bradley Beal, led all Wizards players with 22 points as Washington turned a slim halftime lead into a runaway in the second half.
Less than two years ago, Thomas was the sparkplug for the Boston Celtics’ team that made their way to the Eastern Conference Finals, earning league-wide praise for his clutch fourth-quarter performances. However, the last two years have been an emotional drain on Thomas, from dealing with the death of his sister back in Washington state in the middle of the Celtics’ playoff run in 2017 to being let go by Boston as a salary dump to acquire Kyrie Irving to undergoing hip surgery.
In the offseason, Thomas chose to sign with the Wizards mainly because, according to Thomas, Washington was willing to give him a chance to play the minutes he was accustomed to seeing when he was emerging as one of the elite offensive players in the league.
“It’s been a long road for me the last couple years. I just really put in the work to finally get healthy and to be able to start,” Thomas said. “I’m never going to quit. No matter what, I’ve been through real-life situations that are bigger than basketball.”
During those real-life situations, including the murder of rapper and friend Nipsey Hussle, Thomas drew inspiration from his children when he felt on the verge of no longer bringing the fight that made him one of the league’s toughest players.
“It was tough but my kids, to be honest, they kept me going. They know who I really am so they know what I’ve been through,” he said. “I looked my kids in their eyes and that’s probably what kept me going.”
Thomas played 24 minutes, hitting four of his 12 shots and made one three-pointer. Washington’s reserves in the backcourt made solid contributions as well, with Troy Brown going for a double-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, while Ish Smith had six points and five minutes in 20 minutes off the bench.
Pistons guard Luke Kennard led all scorers with 24 points while center Andre Drumming grabbed 24 rebounds. Washington, however, limited Drummond’s damage on the offensive end, as the 20-20 machine only scored 15 points and was held to 6-of-20 shooting.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Monday evening’s game, with all photos taken by DC-area photographer Yusuf Abdullah. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are nine pictures in total.