By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Once again, the Celtics needed a giant game from their smallest player. Once again, they got just that.READ MORE: New York City Announces First-In-The-Nation Vaccine Mandate For Private Companies
In need of an offensive leader after making things harder than they needed to be against the Dallas Mavericks, the Celtics turned to 5-foot-9 guard Isaiah Thomas for an offensive spark in the fourth quarter on Wednesday night. After letting a 12-point lead slip away to an opponent with just two wins, Thomas absolutely took over in the final frame, leading a late surge with 20 of Boston’s final 24 points.
In all, Thomas scored 22 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, leading Boston to a 90-83 victory.
“I guess I just like that quarter, man,” Thomas told reporters after the win. “Sometimes guys get a little tighter and the pressure gets a little tougher for them. I guess I like the pressure.”
Thomas’ late-game dominance started when the Celtics needed him the most. After the Mavs erased Boston’s double-digit lead, with Wesley Matthews hitting a three to give Dallas a 70-66 lead, Thomas drained a triple of his own to pull the Celtics within one with 5:58 left to play. A Harrison Barnes jumper put the Mavs back on top by three, but Thomas erased that deficit by draining a trio of freebies at the charity stripe.
Thomas made his presence known after he was tardy to the party, with a nice driving hoop among the Mavericks’ giants putting Boston ahead 74-72 with 4:48 to go. He went back-and-forth with Dallas until a coast-to-coast layup off a Dallas turnover gave Boston a 78-76 lead with 3:17 remaining, a lead the Celtics would not relinquish the rest of the way. Thomas provided the dagger with a deep, 29-foot three-pointer with 1:31 left, giving Boston a 84-79 advantage.READ MORE: Sharon Gless On Book 'Apparently There Were Complaints: Cagney & Lacey 'Changed The History Of Television For Women'
Thomas scored 20 points over the final six minutes of the game, and went to the free throw line 13 times in the fourth quarter. He praised his teammates after the game for allowing him to go off offensively with the game on the line.
“I really just try to make plays. My teammates put me in position to get myself going. For the first three quarters I wasn’t playing well; for whatever reason I wasn’t myself,” Thomas admitted. “I saw the ball go in with a few free throws and I felt better about myself. My teammates set screens and coach put me in a position, and I just took advantage of it.”
This latest performance is just another entry into the “What Can’t This Guy Do?” narrative of Thomas’ career. But while fans and those who cover the C’s are left shaking their head in amazement, Thomas’ coach is used to seeing such a display from his miniature scorer.
“He’s got a knack for it,” said Brad Stevens. “I guess I’m so used to being around him and so used to watching him operate that nothing surprises me.”
Thomas has now scored 20 or more points in each of Boston’s first 11 games of the season, averaging 27.2 points per contest.
The Celtics keep turning to their smallest player on the floor to carry the load, and more times than not, he’s able to put the team on those small shoulders of his. It’s a role he relishes, and is ready to keep filling when the Celtics need him.
“I work too hard not to take advantage of the opportunity I’m given,” said Thomas. “I’m ready for whatever Brad, this team, this organization throws at me. I’ve always wanted to be in this position.”MORE NEWS: 19-Year-Old In Custody After Lawrence Shooting Leaves 1 Dead