Thomas leads Celtics to victory with 'tremendous' fourth quarter

Thomas leads Celtics to victory with 'tremendous' fourth quarter

BOSTON – Despite winning in just about every statistical category, the Boston Celtics had to feel a little uneasy going into the fourth quarter. 

The Dallas Mavericks were starving for a victory and had done what you’re supposed to do on the road – keep it close going into the fourth quarter. 

Making matters worse for the Celtics, leading scorer Isaiah Thomas had been a non-factor for the first three quarters. 

And then came the fourth and one shot fell … then another … and another. 


Before long, Thomas was having one of those nights that the Celtics have seen him deliver since coming to Boston. 

And it could not have come at a better time as the Celtics held on for a 90-83 win over the Mavericks. 

Thomas led the way with a game-high 30 points, 22 of which came in the decisive fourth quarter. 

“He’s done it so many times,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Certainly Isaiah’s fourth quarter was tremendous.”

And as Stevens pointed out, it wasn’t as if this was something out of the ordinary for Thomas. 

According to NBA.com/stats, Thomas is the NBA’s second-leading scorer in the fourth quarter (9.7 points), with Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook (10.2 points) just ahead of him. 

“I guess I just like that quarter,” Thomas said. “Sometimes guys get a little tighter and the pressure gets a little tougher for them, and I guess I like pressure.”

Wednesday’s performance only adds to what has been an even more impressive season for Thomas than last year when he was named to his first All-star team. 

He is averaging a career-high 27.2 points per game which ranks eighth in the NBA. 

While his big-time scoring numbers certainly reflect positively on him, Thomas is quick to credit those around him for allowing him to be one of the game’s premier scorers.

“I really just try to make plays and my teammates put me in a position to get myself going because the first three quarters I wasn’t really playing too well. For whatever reason I wasn’t myself so I saw the ball go in with a few free throws in the fourth quarter and then I felt better about myself. My teammates set screens, my coach put me in position, and I just took advantage of it.”

Especially in the fourth quarter.

“You know, he’s got a knack for it,” Stevens said. “I guess I’m so used to being around him and so used to watching him operate that nothing surprises me, is the way I’d say it. I think that he would be the first to tell you that he had opportunities earlier in the game that he usually takes advantage of, but for whatever reason was coming up short. But he got his legs into a couple of those shots late; you could see the lift and the rhythm that he had into a couple of them looked a little bit different and he was unbelievable.”

Morris drills game-winner to lead Celtics over Thunder, 100-99

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Morris drills game-winner to lead Celtics over Thunder, 100-99

BOSTON – Kyrie Irving was decked out in all black, as was Jaylen Brown. 

The look was fitting for the somber mood many Celtics fans are in right now with Irving’s sore left knee being worse than initially thought

These are not the best of times for the Celtics as they try and cope with yet another rash of injuries.

The Celtics may not be where they want to be fit-wise. 

But that has nothing to do with their fight which was once again alive and well. 

And Boston’s gritty effort was rewarded with a 100-99 win over Oklahoma City. 

Marcus Morris drained the go-ahead basket, a 3-pointer, with 1.2 seconds to play.

Following an Oklahoma City time-out, Russell Westbrook’s desperation heave barely grazed the rim as time expired.

Boston was indeed on the comeback trail most of the fourth quarter.

With the Celtics trailing 95-92, Westbrook missed a 3-pointer that was rebounded by Jayson Tatum. 

However, Greg Monroe was called for a foul against Steven Adams that sent the 7-footer to the free throw line with less than a minute to play. 

Adams, who had 14 points and seven rebounds made both free throws. 

But as we’ve seen with this team, they play until the final buzzer. 

After a 3-pointer by Terry Rozier made it a 99-97 game, Oklahoma City’s Carmelo Anthony missed a pair of free throws, leading to a Celtics time-out with 7.7 seconds to play which set up Morris’ game-winning basket.

Boston opened the third quarter with a 12-4 lead capped off by a Tatum 3-pointer to lead 57-52. 

But once again the Thunder rallied back and went into the fourth quarter ahead, but not nearly as comfortable as they would have liked after Boston’s Shane Larkin made a 3-pointer at the buzzer that cut the Thunder’s lead to 75-73 after three quarters of play.

The game being so close down the stretch was indicative of how it began. 

Boston and its patchwork lineup stayed within striking distance in the first quarter, but found themselves on the short end of a 13-3 run near the end of the first quarter which ended with the Thunder leading 26-18.

The Celtics spent most of the second quarter on the comeback trail, but eventually blazed a trail of prosperity that allowed them to go on an 8-0 run fueled by Rozier that put the Celtics ahead 41-36.

But the Thunder, winners of six in a row coming into tonight’s game, bounced back with back-to-back baskets in a matter of seconds to make it a one-point game.

Oklahoma City went on to score eight of the last 12 points to lead 48-45 at the half.



Rozier gets a big test tonight against Thunder

File photo

Rozier gets a big test tonight against Thunder

BOSTON -- Terry Rozier has stepped up his game this season. There’s no disputing that point. 
And the Celtics have rewarded him with increased playing time, which he has proven he deserves. 
While he has made the most of his opportunity with an increased role due to injuries, at some point Rozier’s minutes should go back to being 20 or so per game. 
It’s amazing how far Rozier has come in such a short period of time, from a first-round pick many questioned as being a reach on Boston’s part, to an integral part of the team’s quest towards Banner 18.
And it is games like tonight’s against the Oklahoma City Thunder that will put the experience gained by Rozier as a major contributor, to the ultimate test when he faces off against reigning league MVP Russell Westbrook.
No one expects Rozier to put up Westbrook-like numbers . . . but would anyone be shocked if he did?
Remember, Rozier’s first NBA start came this season and he racked up his first career triple-double. The next game out, he dropped a career-high 31 points. 
But as we get deeper into the season, he’s no longer viewed as a backup or a role player, They see him as a player that has to be accounted for, regardless of whether he’s starting or coming off the bench. 
“There’s a lot of teams in this league you could easily see him starting for,” a league executive told NBC Sports Boston via text. “He’s not Kyrie [Irving] obviously, and he’s a different kind of player than Marcus [Smart], but he can play. If teams didn’t know it before, they know it now.”
Rozier may not be a secret anymore, but here are five under-the-radar story lines to keep an eye on tonight as the Celtics go for the season sweep against the Oklahoma City Thunder. 


If the Celts expect to win tonight, they better get it done in four quarters of play. Because overtime has been a good time for the Thunder. They come into tonight’s game with a 3-0 record in overtime this season. They are one of eight teams with an unblemished overtime record, and no other team in the league this season has as more wins (3) in overtime without a single defeat. 


The NBA hit Marcus Morris up for $15,000 following “verbal abuse of a game official” at the end of Boston’s 108-89 loss at New Orleans.  Morris will be lighter in the wallet, obviously. But it also might get him even more fired up tonight which could lead to him lighting up the Thunder. 


Scoring around the basket has not been a strength of the Celtics, but with key players on the perimeter hurt, Boston has to generate points in other ways. Doing so against the Thunder, a team that has allowed 43.1 points in the paint per game --10th-fewest allowed in the league this season -- will be a challenge.


At some point tonight, Boston will be challenged to get back on defense and not allow Russell Westbrook to score on the break. The Celtics have been one of the league’s better transition defense teams in allowing 10.2 fast-break points, which is the fourth-fewest allowed per game this season. Meanwhile, the Thunder average 14.1 fast-break points, which ranks third in the league. 


The Celtic players talk all the time about how great the TD Garden crowd can be. But at the end of games lately, they haven’t let them much to cheer about. The C's come into tonight’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder with losses in five of their last seven home games with the lone wins coming over Memphis and Charlotte – two teams currently out of playoff seeding. Boston’s last home win over a team that’s currently in the top 8 was a 97-96 win over Portland on Feb. 4, a game in which Al Horford hit a game-winning, fadeaway jumper as time expired.