BOSTON – Head coach Brad Stevens confirmed all indications are that Isaiah Thomas will in fact return to the Celtics’ starting lineup tonight against the Charlotte Hornets.
“He went through everything and felt pretty good,” Stevens said.
The return of Thomas to the lineup could not come soon enough.
In the four games he missed with a right groin injury, the Celtics (13-12) lost all but one.
And in the three losses (Toronto, at Oklahoma City and at San Antonio) one of the keys to the defeat was Boston’s inability to execute effectively in the fourth quarter.
That’s when Thomas has played some of his best basketball this season.
He leads the NBA in fourth quarter free throws (4.0) and is tied for third with Washington’s John Wall for points in the fourth (7.7).
On Thursday, Thomas and his wife Kayla hosted a holiday event for victims of the Cambridge fires earlier this month.
During the event, Thomas discussed how challenging it has been for him to sit out while the Celtics struggle, particularly with the problems they’ve had in the fourth quarter.
“It’s been very tough because I know there are areas in which I can help them,” Thomas said. “The fourth quarter is where I kind of do a lot of positive things and help my team in that area. It’s been frustrating but at the same time we have to have a short memory and keep going, keep grinding and hopefully we can protect home court (tonight) and get a string of wins with this road trip we got coming up.”
Thomas, named to his first All-Star team a year ago, is averaging a career-high 26.0 points per game in addition to leading the Celtics in assists with 6.2 per game.
Meanwhile, the Celtics may have caught an even bigger break with the Hornets (14-12) having to play without their leading scorer, former UConn star Kemba Walker who is not with the team for personal reasons. He is expected to rejoin the team in time for their next game at Atlanta on Saturday. Walker is averaging a career-high 22.6 points per game along with 5.2 assists and 3.7 rebounds.