BOSTON – On the night that Brad Stevens clinched the East All-Star coaching gig, his big star had yet another big night. Isaiah Thomas was the Celtics’ leading scorer in a 113-107 win, as Boston captured the all-time NBA wins belt from the Lakers at 3,253.
It was a peculiarly, or rather disturbingly, close game, underscored by a pathetic possession in the late fourth quarter where the Lakers grabbed four offensive rebounds off of four three-pointers. But Thomas eventually cleaned up that possession, taking an outlet and flying in transition to draw the foul. He would continue to go on a tear to keep the Celtics in front, scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter per usual. Thomas finished with 38 points, his 18th 30-point game of the season, which ranks sixth in the league per Basketball Reference.
“He made a couple of really nice passes out of the blitz,” Stevens said of Thomas. The Lakers doubled IT as much as possible in crunch time, but it didn’t work.
“They tried to blitz him late without the pick-and-roll, so they were really active and he had to read a bunch,” Stevens said. “He made a nice read to Al, he made a quick kick across the court to Marcus.”
D’Angelo Russell told me that they just wanted to stop Isaiah from making shots with their late double teams.
“We just tried to get the ball out of his hands and make other players shoot it,” Russell said.
“It has nothing to do with height,” Larry Nance said of Thomas. “He’s one of the best players in the league period.”
It had shades of a typical Celtics win this season, with Marcus Smart bringing in a wave of defensive intensity to reset the tone early as Thomas barreled ahead through a slew of miscues late for the Cs. The Lakers ended up outscoring the Celtics 33-31 in the fourth, but Thomas was able to answer every three rained down by Nick Young, Lou Williams and the rest of the Lakers’ bench-based closing lineup.
But it was a cherry topping for Stevens, who talked about his All-Star nod after the game.
“What’s nice about it is there’s no politics, there’s no subjectivity,” Stevens said. “It’s just based on what your team’s accomplished.”
Brad Stevens looked almost excited, but Smart was truly proud for his coaches to be getting the honor.
“We are excited for those guys. They put in endless hours and time to make sure that we are ready to go out there and compete and they deserve it.”
With Stevens’s staff locked into the All-Star game, the storyline stage is cleared for Sunday, where Paul Pierce’s final game in Boston will dominate Boston, at least until 6:30 pm.
“I think he’s highly respected here and around this league,” Smart said of Pierce. “When you are on a team like he was and a guy like he was and do the things that he did you never really leave this place. Boston is known for making guys feel very welcome and home here.
“I don’t think Pierce will ever be truly gone.”