BOSTON – The year 2016 is coming to an end, with at least one Boston Celtics player - Isaiah Thomas - probably not all that thrilled about it.
The 5-foot-9 guard has had an amazing year, one where he has gone from being a nice addition to the Celtics roster to one of the most explosive scorers in the game today.
So it was only fitting that he would save his best offensive games of the year, for the Celtics’ last game in 2016.
- Highlights: Boston Celtics 117, Miami Heat 114
- Postgame reaction to Isaiah Thomas' career night vs. Heat
- Horford: Isaiah Thomas 'on another level' in career night vs. Heat
- Isaiah Thomas on 52 points: You dream about things like this
- Stars, studs and duds: Celtics win 'a perfect way to close out' 2016
Thomas, playing without his usual backcourt parter Avery Bradley (sick), left the Heat feeling a bit ill after dropping a career-high 52 points on the usually-tough Miami Heat defense in leading the Celtics to a 117-114 win.
He checked out of the game with 6.2 seconds to play to a standing ovation, moments before James Johnson scored at the buzzer to make it a one-possession game.
The last Celtic to score at least 50 points was Paul Pierce against Cleveland in February of 2006.
Thomas had a franchise-record 29 points in the fourth quarter as part of the win for Boston (20-14) which has now won seven of its last nine games.
Miami, playing without Goran Dragic (back spasms), was as feisty as ever in not allowing the Celtics to pull away which is evident by Boston leading by no more than eight points all night.
But on this night, Thomas refused to allow the Celtics to close out 2016 with a loss.
And while he has shown himself to be a more than adequate passer, there wasn’t much of that on this night.
The dude dropped 52 points … can you blame him?
Making it just as impressive – besides the win – was he did it on an efficient 15-for-26 shooting from the field and 9-for-13 from 3-point range.
The Celtics got a nice bounce-back game from Al Horford (21 points, six rebounds, four assists) as well (he had six points in Boston’s loss at Cleveland on Thursday night).
But this game was all about Thomas, delivering one of the best games in franchise history while reinforcing his place among not just the great guards in the Eastern Conference today, but the NBA as a whole.
As impressive as Thomas’ play was, by no means was this an easy win.
Miami began the fourth quarter with a 9-2 run capped off by a steal and subsequent dunk by Josh Richardson that put the Heat up 89-84 with 9:27 to play. But the Celtics rallied to take control as Richardson finished with 19 points, six rebounds and seven assists.
After A 25-all tie at the end of the first quarter, Miami pulled ahead by as many as seven points (42-35) before the Celtics clamped down defensively and did a better job of executing on offense.
It added up to a 17-6 run by Boston to close out the quarter, with Thomas leading the way with 14 points during the spurt.
Miami continued to keep the game within striking distance in the third quarter, benefiting from second-chance opportunities and some timely 3-point shots.
The Heat are no different than most teams that face the Boston Celtics; they want to slow Thomas down.
And in the third quarter, it was clear that they felt the best way to do that was to force the 5-foot-9 guard to defend pick-and-rolls … a lot.
It led to Tyler Johnson getting hot, as he scored eight of Miami’s first 18 points in the third quarter which included a jumper that put the Heat ahead 66-64 with 5:50 to play in the quarter.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens had seen enough and called a time-out.
But at this point in the game, the Heat were feeling pretty good about their chances at the upset as they kept the Celtics from pulling away.
Boston refused to let them gain too much traction as they took an 82-78 lead into the fourth quarter following a 3-pointer by Jonas Jerebko with 1.7 seconds to play in the quarter.