Isaiah Thomas continued his outstanding 2016-17 season with a dominant outing against the Washington Wizards, out dueling Bradley Beal and John Wall during a 117-108 victory on Wednesday night.
The 5-foot-9, 185-pound point guard kept the Wizards on their toes from start to finish; putting up a game-high 38 points, which included a 20-point showcase in the 4th quarter. In a close contest, Thomas’ excellent play during the late stages of the game would eventually put his team on top for good – while also making some NBA history in the process.
His outstanding outburst in the final frame would elevate his 4th quarter/overtime PER to 41.9, the highest rating in the NBA since LeBron James’ 40.0 PER back in the 2008-09 season. It was a fantastic performance by Thomas, who’s continued to prove himself as one of the NBA’s premier offensive superstars.
Thomas has been spectacular when his team has needed him most – providing them with his leadership and fearless mentality on the court during the late stages of their games. He’s been one of the best players during the 4th quarter this season, averaging an NBA-best 9.8 points on 47.8 FG%. Some of his best performances have also been boosted by incredible 4th quarter performances, including a franchise-record 29-point frame against the Miami Heat a few weeks ago.
The Celtics haven’t had a legitimate offensive threat since the days of Paul Pierce, but Thomas has been just that for his team this season. The 27-year-old has been their go-to option, averaging a career-high 28.2 points on 45.6% FG, to go along with 2.7 rebounds, and 6.1 assists in 33.9 minutes a game.
His emergence has given this Celtics roster a boost, something they’ll desperately need come playoff time in April. Despite becoming an All-Star last season, Thomas wasn’t able to get the job done against the Hawks – leading to his team’s early elimination in the first round of the playoffs. Things seem to be progressing in the right direction this year, with Thomas playing the best basketball of his NBA career.
Highest PER in 4th Qtr/OT – Last 20 Seasons
2016-17 Isaiah Thomas 41.9
2008-09 LeBron James 40.0
2009-10 LeBron James 39.8
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 12, 2017
Coming off a tough loss on the road against the Toronto Raptors, the Celtics were able to get off to a hot start on Wednesday night. Led by Thomas’ 8 points and Jae Crowder’s 14, Boston would score a game-high 36 points in the 1st quarter – spreading the ball around the court and knocking down 8 of their 10 (80%) 3-point attempts in the frame. Unfortunately for them, Bradley Beal would also have a terrific start to his night; finishing with 16 points of his own to lead his squad within a single point by the end of the 1st.
The 2nd and 3rd quarters would feature much better defence, with both teams scoring under 30 in both frames. Thomas would score a combined 10 points throughout that time, shooting a miserable 36 FG% during that span, while the Wizards took an 85-83 lead into the 4th. Despite his shooting struggles, Thomas would persevere and bounce back to be able to make an attempt to win the game. The little man out of Washington would start the 4th with a statement, finishing a tough and-1 layup to tie, and eventually give his team a 86-85 lead with 10:48 remaining.
A few minutes later, Thomas would pull off a Larry Bird-esque play; grabbing his own missed shot for a tough putback layup to give his team a 92-91 lead with 7:28 left in the frame. The Wizards would call a timeout and get some of their starters back in the game, looking to switch momentum back onto their side at the Garden. Thomas would respond once again, knocking down back-to-back 3-pointers right out of the timeout to give his team a 98-91 lead with just over 7 minutes left on the clock.
Beal and the Wizards wouldn’t give up just yet, coming up with a quick 8-0 run to give themselves a 99-98 lead with 5:36 left in the frame. It wouldn’t end up effecting the Celtics’ flow, with Thomas looking to his teammates for some help. Al Horford would step up and make a turnaround hook shot to retake the lead at 100-99, until Thomas stepped once again to put the game to the rest. The 5-foot-9 point guard would put matters into his own hands; accounting for 9 of his team’s last 12 points to help close out the Wizards.
The crafty scoring guard has come into his own this season, leading the Celtics above mediocrity and into the spotlight once again. So far, Thomas has exceeded expectations and has become an offensive superstar for his team – becoming the first Celtics player to average at least 25 points since Paul Pierce in the 2005-06 season.
The Celtics are currently sitting in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference with a 24-15 record, with Thomas leading the way. Their on pace to surpass their 48-34 record from last season, while Thomas looks bound to become an All-Star for the second straight season. They’ve now won 7 of their last 10 games, and are starting to look like one of the best teams in the league as they find their rhythm.
It’ll be tough for the Celtics to get through the East, with powerhouses like the Raptors and the Cleveland Cavaliers in their way. They’ll be tested in the offseason, but as long as they have Thomas playing at an elite-level, the Celtics should be considered a legitimate threat capable of attacking and beating any team in the NBA.
All stats for this article are from NBA.com
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