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25 August
10 September, 2023
4 Isaiah Thomas (USA)
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Portrait in Action: Isaiah Thomas becomes USA's Mr Wonderful

COLORADO SPRINGS (USA) - Isaiah Thomas is a tough defensive assignment for any player. Always has been, always will be.

It's been that way in the NBA, and in the international windows with the USA.

The point guard makes it look easy when he scores with runners and mid-range jumpers, and gets to the rim - no matter how big the defender is.

He has quickness, skill, talent and toughness in abundance, which makes Thomas one of the most exciting players around.

Thomas was never better than from 2015 to 2017, his NBA All-Star days with the Boston Celtics. In the USA jersey, his dynamic displays against Cuba and Mexico in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Americas Qualifiers proved to everyone that he's still got it.

The 33-year-old poured in 21 points against both countries, reviving his NBA career in the process. He returned to the league and last played with the Charlotte Hornets this season.

Going to work in and around the lane

How do you stop him? Judging on this evidence, you do not. Thomas didn't flinch when choosing to go up against taller defenders and get to the rim. On fast breaks, he made difficult catches and banked in shots despite having a hand in his face. If defenders dared to guard him on the perimeter, he powered his way past, kept the opponent on his hip and scored from a couple of meters out. At times, Thomas changed speeds while attacking defenses before stepping back and draining jumpers. He knifed his way into the lane and, against players his own size, posted up. Thomas was so strong with the ball that no one took it away from him. He finished 14 of 31 (45.2%) inside the arc.

Daggers from the arc 

What's worse than having to contend with Thomas when he's making his trademark drives and taking on all comers? It's having to throw caution to the wind and guard him 6.75 meters from the basket. Thomas didn't just pull up on fast breaks and bury 3-pointers in the Americas Qualifiers, he also dribbled and danced before drilling them, or beat opponents with catch-and-shoot treys. One of his daggers came with 13 seconds left against Cuba that gave the USA a five-point advantage and effectively sealed victory. He finished a very respectable 7 of 17 (41.2%).

Sharing the ball

Thomas could have gone at one, two or three defenders and scored whenever he wanted, yet he made the smart plays in the Americas Qualifiers when he needed to and collected 13 assists in the process. The Tacoma-born playmaker made bounce passes to cutters when facing double-teams, threw alley-oop passes from both sides of the lane and just caused havoc when he had the ball. If he turned it over a total of 10 times in the two games, there were a lot more pluses than minuses when the fiery facilitator got his hands on the ball.

"Portrait in Action" is a feature where some of the most outstanding talents around the world are highlighted, putting on display what they can do on the court that makes them must-watch candidates.

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