Mike Conley carried the Grizzlies all game. But the final seconds of overtime belonged to Marc Gasol.
That’s not to say Stevens is a future Hall of Famer, either. Part of the reason for the boomerang of opinion against Stevens has been the way he’s sometimes portrayed as a golden boy of the NBA. That was compounded by an ESPN ranking that had Stevens as the NBA’s third-best coach. The truth — as always — is somewhere in between.
Stevens is a sharp Xs and Os guy, and he has rebuilt the Boston offense to thrive in today’s NBA. He’s helped some mediocre players on the roster get the most out of their ability. On the downside, he can be slow on in-game adjustments. Another knock on Stevens that has been floated from players is that he’s not a great communicator — players can deal with alterations to their roles within the rotation, but Stevens does not always explain those alterations.
But for a purely impartial look at Stevens and where he sits among coaches in the league, we went to three league observers: an Eastern Conference scout, front-office executive and assistant coach. Their takes are as follows.
On a bittersweet note, Thomas’s epic performance came on what would have been the 23rd birthday of his sister, Chyna Thomas, who died in a car crash last month.
“There was no way I couldn’t play on her birthday,” Thomas said. “I wanted to win for her.”
He said: “I can’t even sit up here and say I can [compare]. One thing I do know is that we had a huge halftime deficit and were able to come back and win the game.
“I didn’t know it was the biggest comeback or things of that nature. For myself, I just try to put myself in position to help my teammates win no matter who’s on the floor with me. Try to empower them, try to make them better, try to make them believe we can be great every night.