BOSTON -- Just two days into the NBA season, Isaiah Thomas is already looking like an All-Star, like he did last season after the Boston Celtics acquired him at the trade deadline.
Thomas led the Celtics with 27 points in their 112-95 domination of the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night at TD Garden. With 19 shots in 29 minutes, Thomas had a 35.1 usage percentage, a rate usually reserved for the NBA's superstars.
Thomas might not be a mainstream superstar, but the Celtics use him like one, funneling their offense through him whenever he's in the game, and Thomas produces accordingly.
But Thomas got off to an unusually slow start, shooting 0-for-5 in his first 8 minutes. However, Brad Stevens knew this wasn't an issue.
"[Letting Thomas continue to shoot] is the biggest thing," Stevens said after the game. "We've talked quite a bit about that: play with speed, play aggressive, play with spirit, let the chips fall where they may with him ... because a hot streak is coming."
Thomas' performance over the remainder of the Celtics' opener was superstar esque; in the next 21 minutes he scored all 27 of his points on 10-of-14 shooting.
"That's my job. I'm not gonna be shy when I've got a job to do," Thomas said. "I know at some point in time it's gonna drop. I'm a guy that scores in bunches and makes plays in bunches. I just need to see one go in. My teammates give me a lot of confidence to continue to keep shooting and to continue being aggressive."
Thomas looked a lot like fellow Boston sports star, Tom Brady, in that he was picking apart the defense in a myriad of ways -- transition, pick-and-roll, and isolation.
Here's one of Thomas' most assertive plays of the night:
On this play, Thomas is defended on a switch by a long Jerami Grant. Amir Johnson then sets a screen for Thomas, which brings Nerlens Noel into the action. Noel might only be 21-years-old, but he's already one of the NBA's elite shot blockers, so it's no easy task for Thomas to create a quality shot here.
But Thomas takes advantage of a slightly off-balance Noel and uses a lightning quick crossover to zoom by him for the layup.
Thomas wasn't just a scorer for the Celtics, though. On the night he also tallied 7 assists to just 3 turnovers. Many of those dimes came using screens.
Here, Jahlil Okafor drops on the Thomas-Johnson screen, so Thomas discards his defender, probes, and waits for the perfect moment to fire a dart to Johnson. The eye level pass was ideal because it allowed Johnson to quickly transition into the layup.
Of Johnson's 15 points on Wednesday, 11 came courtesy of Thomas (9 via the pick-and-roll, 2 from a drawn foul). They could certainly become a lethal pairing this season, and they're off to a sensational start.
It's unsurprising Thomas and Johnson are effective together. Johnson was an elite pick-and-roll finisher last year, scoring 1.16 points per possession, according to NBA.com. Thomas, after joining the Celtics, was one of the best pick-and-roll ball handlers, scoring 0.94 points per possession.
But what's really encouraging for the Celtics is just how good they already are together.
"[Johnson] just knows how to play the game," Thomas said. "He keeps it simple. He knows where to set the screens at. He's a guy with a high basketball IQ. It's not that we have a lot of chemistry together, it's just two guys that just know how to play."
As Thomas and Johnson gain chemistry, perhaps their efficiency will continue to improve. Maybe it'll even lead to an All-Star appearance for the Boston Celtics' go-to scorer, Isaiah Thomas.