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Celtics learn lesson the hard way that Isaiah Thomas won’t save them every fourth quarter 01.18.17 at 11:09 pm ET
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It was his time to shine.

Down 88-84 entering the fourth quarter, it was the prime moment for Isaiah Thomas to again take control and carry the Celtics to a victory over the lowly Knicks.

The problem was, he didn’t. It’s not his fault, it was simply human nature, he couldn’t save the Celtics seemingly every game. And while there was anxious anticipation that someone would step up and pick up the slack, no one did. Instead of taking control and ending the game with a bang, it ended quietly, with the Knicks running out the clock as players shook hands with time still remaining. The Celtics had dug themselves an an 11-point hole and never climbed out of it.

While not a great effort, the Celtics aren’t ready to believe it is because they rely purely on Thomas to take care of things late in the game.

“I don’t know, I didn’t get that impression necessarily,” said head coach Brad Stevens. “But I think that we didn’t play at a level of flying around that we need to for the first three or the fourth, maybe there was some of that. I don’t know.”

Thomas finished with eight points in the quarter, 39 on the night. A far cry from a poor performance by any measure.

From big man Al Horford’s perspective, there seemed to come a point where things ultimately became more chaotic than structured.

“I don’t know if [we were] necessarily discouraged, but towards the end, yeah. Like two or three minutes to go it was hard,” said Horford. “But I think that we, I guess we kind of steer away from our stuff and executing and we kind of start doing our own stuff a little bit. That’s a little normal sometimes, when adversity hits everybody wants to pick it up and do their part, and I think that could’ve been the case tonight.”

Thomas, not one to run from blame, acknowledged his shortcomings. After a mesmerizing first three periods in which he seemed to never be able to miss what looked like impossible layups, he eventually went quiet.

He went 2-for-9 in the fourth quarter, never finding the rhythm that led him to such success early on.

“It happens,” Thomas said. “I can’t make every shot, [but] I’m going to keep being aggressive, that’s what my team needs. I missed a few shots I usually make.”

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Celtics Pregame Notes: Despite recent skid, Celtics not about to take Knicks lightly at 6:32 pm ET
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Brad Stevens

Brad Stevens

Dragging themselves into TD Garden Wednesday night will be the 18-24 Knicks, losers of 11 of their last 13 games. There’s been drama and injuries among other plight, but it’s still not enough for the Celtics to consider Wednesday’s tilt a win before tipoff. 

The Celtics had their work cut out for them last time the two met, with a five-point win on Christmas Day. Prior to that, they dismantled the Knicks 115-87 after Carmelo Anthony got himself a double technical in the early going. The C’s are catching the Knicks at a prime time, with New York losing their most recent game against the Hawks on Monday by two points. The Knicks will also be missing 7-foot-1 star Kristaps Porzingis, who is averaging 19.4 points.

“I think we understand it’s hard to win a basketball game,” said coach Brad Stevens. “This is a strange profession when you base how you feel for two straight days based on whether or not a ball rolls in the basket or not. 

“If New York hits that game winner against Atlanta … they should feel good, but it doesn’t change how they played the rest of the game, which is pretty well. But that’s the way you kind of feel in these situations, you recognize whether you’re on the end that lost the last one or won the last one, the next one is a brand new game and you’ve got to play really well to win. This team, we’ve had good games against almost every time we’ve played them in the past, and it’s going to be a hard one to win.”

With a team like the Knicks in town, it becomes easier to appreciate the situation the Celtics have found themselves in. 11 games over .500 at 26-15, the C’s — albeit with some exceptions — have exhibited balance on both sides of the ball, and have gotten key contributions from a number of players.

The most notable example of their good fortune is the fourth quarter performances of Isaiah Thomas. The point guard has bailed the Celtics out a number of potential losses, and while he’s been helping the Celtics avert crisis, the defensive play has been doing its part as well.

“Obviously, Isaiah’s fourth quarter performances have been well documented. I think we’ve had a number of guys who have made good plays in those moments. I think our defense has been pretty good in those moments. Knock on wood, we’ve been pretty good executing in those moments with a few exceptions throughout the season.

“Our guys have come to play ever since the first week of November or whatever it was. They’ve come to compete every night, and realize it’s going to be really hard. You don’t take a possession for granted, you realize that you’re going to be in three possession games or below most likely. It requires your ultimate attention, and our guys have been pretty good about that.”

Other Celtics Notes

— Tyler Zeller (sinus infection) and James Young (right ankle sprain) will be out Wednesday, but are both close to becoming full practice participants. All other members of the Celtics are active and available.

— The Celtics will remain with the same starting lineup as Monday, with Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Al Horford, Amir Johnson and Jae Crowder all starting.

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Isaiah Thomas once again leads Celtics, but Jaylen Brown intrigues in win over Hornets, too 01.16.17 at 10:00 pm ET
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Al Horford salutes teammates during a win over the Hornets on Monday. (Bob De Chiara/USA Today Sports)

Al Horford salutes teammates during a win over the Hornets on Monday. (Bob De Chiara/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas once again reminded us what time it is, but after watching the Celtics beat the Hornets on Monday night, I’m fascinated by Jaylen Brown.

The rookie didn’t do much down the stretch of the 108-98 victory — he was at least on the floor for much of the fourth quarter when Thomas delivered his nightly explosion — but we’re starting to get a clearer picture of his skill set.

Brown scored seven points in the first half by highlighting his explosive athleticism. He went coast-to-coast for a basket right before the half, he made an acrobatic layup inside while heavily defended, and he led another break that ended with a tough hoop inside after he laid the ball down to Jonas Jerebko and then got it back.

Brown almost completely lacks any semblance of an outside game, which is ultimately going to decide what kind of an impact he’ll make as a pro. He’s also got that lost-in-headlights look at times, too. But considering that he’s only 20 years old and is basically taking a red-shirt rookie season, the skills he’s exhibiting suggest an intriguing future.

“Jaylen Brown played one of his best games of the season,” head coach Brad Stevens told Comcast’s Abby Chin on the postgame show.

What is he? Your guess is as good as mine. As athletic as he may be, it’s also worth noting that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist cleanly turned him away at the rim on a two-handed dunk attempt in the fourth quarter. He’s not such a high-flyer that he can just throw down on anyone.

Brown had a great view while Thomas went off during another monster fourth quarter, where he scored 17 of his game-high 35. Thomas did it everywhere except from the free throw line, becoming the first Celtic since Larry Bird in 1984 to score at least 35 points without a free throw.

Thomas’s best basket may have been a corner jumper over Hornets big man Cody Zeller that started with a reverse dribble into an up-fake that got the 7-footer off his feet before Thomas calmly drilled the shot in his face.

“Isaiah doesn’t even come up to his lettahs!” broadcaster Tommy Heinsohn yelled.

Al Horford scored 22, and Kelly Olynyk and Jae Crowder added 15 points apiece as the Celtics (26-15) hit the official halfway point of the season with 13 wins in their last 16 games.

Read More: Al Horford, Celtics, Hornets, Isaiah Thomas
Outside shooting carries Celtics in win over Pelicans 01.07.17 at 10:14 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas

The Celtics continue to live by the 3. 

It’s been their m.o. lately and made a difference in their 117-108 victory over the Pelicans. The C’s have now won four consecutive games, including 10 of their last 12.

Luckily for the Celtics, they have been living well from deep. Throughout their last four games, the C’s have shot 51 percent on 71-of-139 attempts from outside. 

Fresh off their win against the Sixers — where they drained 19 3-pointers, a new franchise record — the C’s continued their streak of hot outside shooting against the Pelicans. Boston flirted with the franchise’s 3-point record while shooting 50 percent from the floor on 18-of-36 attempts from deep.

Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart were on fire — they combined for 11-of-18 from 3.

Led by Anthony Davis’ 13-point first-quarter, the Pelicans grabbed a 10-point, first-half lead before the Celtics found their offensive momentum. The Pelicans big man finished with a monster double-double (36 points, 15 rebounds) but his big-time performance was no match against Celtics’ outside touch combined with a 38-point night by Thomas, who has stretched his streak of scoring 20-plus points to 12 consecutive games — the longest streak in the league. 

(For a complete recap of the Celtics’ win, click here.)

The Celtics caught fire after halftime — they knocked down 5-of-9 from behind the arc and grabbed a 14-point lead (75-61) midway through the third quarter. They outscored New Orleans, 36-20, in the third quarter and began the final frame with a 20-point lead (93-73). The C’s knocked down 9-of-18 from downtown in the second half. 

Smart, who got the start over Avery Bradley (sprained Achilles), put together his best shooting night of the season. Smart knocked in a season-high 5-of-7 from outside and finished with 22 points to go with his 6 assists, 5 rebounds and three steals. He was locked in on both ends of the floor and triggered excellent ball movement throughout his teammates on the offensive end. 

However, it’s going to be interesting to see how the Celtics will perform when the 3-pointers aren’t falling. The C’s are shooting 36.5 percent from outside this season — good enough for ninth in the league — yet, there isn’t one player in the team’s rotation who is afraid to attempt a 3-pointer, even Amir Johnson will rarely pass up an open 3.

They may find out how tough it is to win a game without making 17 or 18 3-pointers, like they’ve done the past four games, in Toronto when they take on the eastern conference’s second-best team in the Raptors (24-11) on Tuesday night.

Read More: Anthony Davis, Isaiah Thomas,
Brett Brown gives Joel Embiid his shot at Isaiah Thomas: ‘[Embiid] is a big personality type of player’ 01.06.17 at 9:04 pm ET
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A lot of players have tried – in vain – to stop Isaiah Thomas this year. The Celtics point guard who 

Philly’s Joel Embiid, before Friday’s game, was the latest to express his desire to get in on the action.

“I think it’s a reflection of how he sees himself,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said in his pre-game media session. “I think it’s a reflection of an attitude that I appreciate. There is an inner confidence. There is a self-belief. There is a fearlessness to say things kind of out of the box. He’s a big personality type player.

“Guarding him at times you may have to switch, because they have the ability to pick-and-pop Horford or Olynyk and those guys can shoots threes and that’s part of the challenge of guarding Isaiah in pick-and-rolls where when you give him attention they now have the ability to pick-and-pop guys that can shoot threes at a high percentage. So in that circumstance, Joel might find himself on Isaiah Thomas.”

As it turned out, Embiid didn’t have to chase Thomas, at least in the first half. The Celtics guard took it to him in the first half, with mixed results. 

Thomas matched his season high with five turnovers in the first 17 minutes as Embiid flashed out on him a couple of times. The Celtics crowd, fresh from cheering for Gordon Hayward, starting chanting “Trust the Process” in an ode to his physical skills as well as an effort to get in his head. 

But what the Sixers – and every other team that’s played Thomas – is aware of is his explosiveness in the clutch, namely the fourth quarter. Thomas scored 29 of his 52 points in the final 12 minutes against the Heat on Dec. 30. 

“He almost singlehandedly beat us in that one-point loss in Philadelphia,” Brown said of Thomas’ 13 fourth-quarter points in Boston’s 107-106 win on Dec. 3. “He’s just so elusive. He’s got the ability to create off the dribble. That might sound like it’s common to say that, but it’s rare and it’s hard to guard somebody who can create their own shot and at times doesn’t need a pick and roll.”

Thomas finished that game with 37 points and the Celtics escaped with a win. 

“So, we’ve got to choose the defenders we feel have a chance to guard somebody that elusive, that dynamic,” Brown said. “I had a chance to see his 50-whatever point game against Miami and that massive fourth period and he’s an All-Star for a reason so we have to really – as a team – just [mark] off a few guys we think can just stalk him and make his life as difficult as we can.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Joel Embiid, NBA
Turtle from ‘Entourage’ begs NBA fans to vote Isaiah Thomas for the All-Star Game 01.05.17 at 10:55 pm ET
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Actor Jerry Ferrara is better known as Turtle from the long-running HBO series (and movie) “Entourage,” and appropriate of someone who once called Marky-Mark boss, the New York native and unabashed Knicks fan has a new favorite player he’d like to see recognized — Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas.

In a series of tweets on Thursday night, Ferrara praised Thomas and implored NBA fans to vote for him to play in the All-Star Game.

Ferrara is as big a Knicks fan as they come, but even he recognizes the leap Thomas has made this season. In the last week alone, Thomas has scored 52 points one night and recorded 15 assists on another.

Thomas currently ranks fourth among guards in the Eastern Conference with 193,297 votes, well behind leaders Kyrie Irving of the Cavs (543,030), Dwyane Wade of the Bulls (278,052), and DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors (253,340).

Still, with Turtle on his side, anything is possible. After all, things always had a way of working themselves out for Vince.

Read More: Celtics, Entourage, Isaiah Thomas, Jerry Ferrara
Why Danny Ainge’s deal for Isaiah Thomas was the biggest steal of his tenure 01.02.17 at 11:12 am ET
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Jan 21, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge before a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will look to make another big trade sometime in the near future (Robert Mayer/USA Today Sports)

No one knew it at the time but Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made the biggest steal of his tenure in Boston when he traded for Isaiah Thomas in the final minutes before the 2015 NBA trade deadline.

On February 19, 2015 — a day that was marked the busiest NBA trade deadline day in 25 years — the Celtics acquired Thomas from the Suns in exchange for Marcus Thornton and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2016 first-round pick.

For the Celtics, a team that was teetering between squeezing into the playoffs and entering a second consecutive draft lottery at the time, the deal pushed the ball forward in their rebuilding phase. It was clear Ainge wanted to see the Celtics blossom into a playoff team sooner rather than later, even if it meant a first-round sweep against the conference leading Cavaliers.

However, Ainge had his eyes on Thomas way before 2015’s trade deadline. He observed the young prospect before the 2011 NBA Draft and reached out to Thomas moments after free agency opened its doors in the summer of 2014.

“Danny Ainge was the first person to call me at 12:01 a.m.,” Thomas said back in 2014.

Instead of inking a deal with the Celtics, a team with the crowded back court of Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart at the time, Thomas signed a four-year, $27 million contract with the Suns. It was a modest deal but Thomas was still trying to prove himself as a back up point guard at that time. Today, that’s a bargain to say the least as Thomas has reached new heights as one of the league’s elite scorers.

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