With the Boston Celtics trailing 3-2 in their first-round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks, the last thing they needed to worry about was an injury to their star player.
But, that's exactly what has happened. Isaiah Thomas enters game six in Boston with a mild left ankle sprain, an injury that he originally tweaked in game four and forced him from the court in the fourth quarter of game five.
With the Celtics only one defeat away from their season's demise, the timing couldn't be any worse. Thomas dropped a career high of 22.2 points a night during the regular season and also drastically improved his rebounding.
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His electric form at Boston's point spawned All-Star credentials for the first time in the 27-year-old's career and he also led the franchise in assists.
Despite the prognosis, Thomas is certain he will suit up for the crunch game on Thursday night and has moved to reassure fans he'll be fine.
"I'm great," Thomas said. "Ready for game six. I'm playing no matter what. I'm not going to sit out. I just tweaked it. I tweaked it in game four as well in the fourth quarter, so I just tweaked it again. And it hurt right when it happened, but I came back [to the locker room], and I'll be all right."
"For the most part, the swelling is all right," he said. "I don't swell that much. Hopefully it doesn't get any worse by [Wednesday], which it probably will. I'll just get treatment all day [Wednesday] and then before the game on Thursday."
Thomas' teammates are obviously desperate to see their superstar colleagues take to the court in such an important game. Jae Crowder was recently dealing with an ankle sprain himself, and he knows how difficult they can make playing your normal game.
"It's a challenge and just makes the game tougher, but he's a very strong-minded individual like myself, and he'll fight through it, especially at this point in the season," Crowder said.
Evan Turner echoed Crowder's sentiments, insisting that playing through the pain barrier would be nothing new to their resident at the one spot.
"He's a tough guy; he'll bounce back from it. Maybe he'll wear some high-tops. He's a tough dude. He plays through some injuries a lot."
Thomas is, without a doubt, the key man in the Boston unit. His diminutive play this season has been what's led them to the playoff picture, and it would be a shame this fiercely contested series was ultimately swung because of an injury.
This setback comes hot on the heels of two other injuries suffered by All-Star point guards. Chris Paul of the L.A. Clippers has had surgery on a broken bone in his hand to kill his playoff dreams and Stephen Curry is battling to take part in the Golden State Warriors' postseason with a sprained right knee.