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Isaiah Thomas on Sixth Man vote: 'Numbers don't lie'

AP Photo/Winslow Townson

CLEVELAND -- Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas congratulated Sixth Man of the Year award winner Lou Williams on Monday, but Thomas didn't hide his belief that he should have taken home that honor.

"[The voting is] not in my control," Thomas said Monday from Celtics practice at Quicken Loans Arena after he finished as runner-up for the award. Williams earned 78 first-place votes and finished with 502 total points in the voting among 130 sportswriters and broadcasters. Thomas landed 33 first-place votes and scored 324 total points.

"Congrats to Lou Will," Thomas added. "I can’t say too much about it. All I’m going to say is numbers don’t lie. But congrats to him. He deserves it."

Thomas might have finished second in the voting for the award, but he remains Boston's primary offensive weapon and maybe its biggest hope for success in a first-round playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Williams and Thomas had similar statistical seasons, though Thomas held a slight edge in most major statistical categories, including bench scoring (a league-leading 16.3 points per game for Thomas; Williams was third at 15.5). What's more, Thomas' stat line ballooned upon arrival in Boston, where he averaged 19 points and 5.4 assists over 26 minutes per game in 21 reserve appearances.

Thomas also thrived in the fourth quarter of games. From Elias Sports Bureau: Thomas’ 1,101 total points scored ranked him 48th overall in the NBA this season, but his 404 points scored in the fourth quarter were surpassed by only three NBA players -- Damian Lillard (447), LeBron James (410) and James Harden (408).

"All I'm going to say is numbers don't lie. But congrats to [Lou Williams]. He deserves it." Isaiah Thomas

The Celtics were 14-7 in games Thomas played this season (.667 win percentage) and 26-35 (.426) without him. Some will suggest Toronto, as a team, had a better season than both Boston and Phoenix (where Thomas played his first 46 games of the season), but if you combine the records for the Celtics and Suns in the 67 combined games Thomas played for the two teams this season, it comes out to 40-27 (14-7 with Boston; 26-20 with Phoenix), good for a .597 win percentage. In the 80 games Williams played this season, the Raptors were 48-32 (.600).

Thomas' candidacy received a boost when he arrived in Boston and aided the team's playoff push. Does he wonder if he might have gotten additional consideration if he spent more time with the Celtics this season?

"You could say that," Thomas said. "It had a lot to do with winning too. Since I got to Boston, things changed, we started winning, we got into the playoffs, so you’re definitely going to hear about more individual success than when I was in Phoenix. I thought I did a pretty good job in Phoenix as well. But it is what it is. I can’t control it. I just go out there and play and try to put myself in best position as possible."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who lobbied for Thomas as Sixth Man award late in the regular season, stood by that pick.

"Lou Williams is a very deserving candidate, but Isaiah would have been my vote," Stevens said.

Evan Turner, who formerly played with Williams in Philadelphia, didn't think there was a wrong choice but heaped praise on what Thomas has brought to Boston.

"[Thomas is] definitely worthy of the award; he played great for us," Turner said. "He was big-time all season. Obviously, if he'd been around all season and we'd finished higher in the [standings], he probably for sure would have got it."

Added Turner: "It's two great guys who could have won it. Isaiah's a big-time player for us ... but Lou Williams is a great choice. He played great and everything like that. But Isaiah -- I'm pretty sure it was very, very hard to gauge who should get it."

Thomas put up 22 points, 10 assists and five rebounds in his playoff debut during Boston's Game 1 loss to the Cavaliers on Sunday. Recognizing that Thomas is maybe Boston's offensive focal point, the Cavaliers often sent multiple defenders at him and had help near the basket to prevent layups on drives.

Both Stevens and Thomas recognize the importance of Thomas making the right basketball decision -- whether it's to generate offense for himself or his teammates -- moving forward.

"Whether he scores 20 like he did [Sunday], or whether he scores five, the goal is for our team to get good shots," Stevens said. "I think that they are going to pay him a lot of attention. Every team that we play pays him a lot of attention. And he just has to continue to make the right basketball play. And he did a pretty good job of that [in Game 1]."

Said Thomas: "Honestly, I just try to go out there and make the right play each and every time down. Take what the defense gives me. They are crowding me a lot, especially last game, putting two guys on me. I’ve just got to find the open guy and try to make the right play as much as possible."

Thomas acknowledged that he has to eliminate his turnovers. He had five in Sunday's loss, including three in the third quarter, when the Cavaliers had built a big lead.

"I had a few turnovers there that I can control by jumping in the air and things like that," Thomas said. "I can fix those, so hopefully in Game 2 it’ll be a decent story."