Stars, studs and duds: Stevens trusts Thomas in critical moment

Stars, studs and duds: Stevens trusts Thomas in critical moment

ATLANTA – With the scored tied at 101, Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens had some ideas on what he wanted to see in the closing seconds on Friday night.

Isaiah Thomas had some ideas as well; ideas that didn’t necessarily jive with Stevens.

So what did Stevens do?

He trusted Thomas in the most critical moment of the game, and Thomas delivered as the Celtics escaped Atlanta with a 103-101 win as Thomas drained the game-winner with 2.4 seconds to play.

“Yeah, yeah, I mean usually you would call time out in that situation but he (Thomas) actually... I could see him down the court kind of wave off the idea of a time-out so I told him, ‘alright go win the game.’ You know, that's what you have to do if you wave off the idea of a time-out. But I trust him to do that and ultimately, he's made so many big plays you have to ... You believe in your guys.”

As important as getting the victory was for Thomas, knowing that Stevens has that level of faith in him at such a critical moment of play, was just as huge.

“It means everything,” Thomas said. “Without him and this team, I wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in. He lets me be me, he puts me in position to be me and that’s the definition of our relationship right there. He really trusts me in that type of situation and I can’t thank him enough.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Friday night’s game.



Isaiah Thomas

Once again Thomas saved his best work for when it mattered the most, the fourth quarter. That is when he scored 13 of his game-high 28 points which included the game-winning shot with 2.4 seconds to play. Thomas also made the Hawks pay for double-teaming him frequently by dishing out a game-high nine assists along with grabbing four rebounds.

Paul Millsap

The Hawks’ leading scorer had an efficient night offensively with 23 points on 8-for-15 shooting. He also grabbed five rebounds and dished out six assists.



Kelly Olynyk

Maybe the biggest surprise of the night was Olynyk, scoring 18 of his season-high 26 points in the first half in helping Boston pull ahead and maintaining a double-digit lead for most of the first half.

Tim Hardaway Jr.

Here’s the man whose red-hot shooting brought the Hawks back from the brink of being blown out, to playing a competitive game. He finished with 23 points off the bench, 15 of which came in the fourth quarter.

Jae Crowder

He delivered a quiet but effective performance for the Celtics, finishing with a near double-double of 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting to go with nine rebounds.

Malcolm Delaney

The name isn’t a familiar one to many, but Delaney gave the Hawks some much-needed production off the bench after the starting backcourt of Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schroder struggled. Delaney had 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting in addition to dishing out six assists and grabbing four rebounds.



Dennis Schroder

At no point in the game did Schroder look or play like a difference-making, impact player that the Hawks need him to be in order to win. He had just four points on 2-for-11 shooting.

WATCH: Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans

NBC Sports Boston illustration

WATCH: Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Pelicans in New Orleans. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 5:30  p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Can C's slow down Anthony Davis?

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

Celtics-Pelicans preview: Can C's slow down Anthony Davis?

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Celtics-Pelicans preview: Can C's slow down Anthony Davis?

As the NBA trade deadline drew near, Celtics Nation was hoping tonight’s matchup between Boston and New Orleans would be Anthony Davis returning to where his pro career began.

He’s still with the Pelicans, doing what Davis has done for most of his career – dominate play.

But there’s a new twist now … he’s also winning. 

That’s why the 6-foot-10 Davis is no longer seen as a player that might be on the move anytime soon. 

He’s not just one of the league’s best players, but a bonafide MVP candidate whose stock as an elite player is even greater since New Orleans lost DeMarcus Cousins (ruptured Achilles tendon) for the season on Jan. 26. 

Since Cousins’ season-ending injury, New Orleans (39-30) has a 12-9 record with Davis averaging 31.1 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.2 blocks and 2.3 steals per game in that span. 

Davis is also averaging 7.8 free throws per game which ranks fourth in the NBA, although you wouldn’t know he was among the league leaders in that category based on the postgame rant by his coach Alvin Gentry following New Orleans’ 107-101 loss to Houston on Saturday night. 

“A.D. (Anthony Davis) never gets a call,” a visibly angry Gentry told reporters following the loss. “He never gets a call. We talk about them holding him. We talk about them grabbing him on rolls. We talk about them coming under him on post-ups. He never gets a call; not one. And you know why? Because he doesn’t (bleep) complain about it. He just keeps playing the game.”

Regardless of how often he gets to the line, Davis is still putting up MVP-caliber numbers this season in Cousins’ absence. 

But it’s not like Davis’ stat line this season overall – 28.0 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.4 blocks and 1.5 steals – didn’t stand out for all the right reasons, either.

However, Davis’ shine isn’t quite as bright now with the Pelicans losing four of their last five games which has dropped New Orleans (39-30) down to the eighth and final playoff spot and just 1.5 games ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers (37-31).

So, the Celtics come into town facing not only one of the better teams in the West, but a club that is absolutely starving for a win.

While Boston (47-22) certainly wants to come into the Big Easy and get a victory, its impact on the Celtics’ playoff hopes is non-existent. 

Boston has the second-best record in the East and trail Toronto (52-17) by five games with 13 remaining. They face the Raptors two more times this season, but even if they win both of those games and thus the head-to-head series, it likely won’t come into play because of Toronto likely finishing with the best record in the East. 

And behind Boston in the standings is Cleveland (40-29), another injury-riddled team that’s seven games behind the Celtics in the standing and has shown no signs of threatening to gain ground on Boston. 

So regardless of how the Celtics fare, it’s likely they will remain sandwiched between Toronto and Cleveland in terms of playoff seedings are concerned. 

And that might factor into who plays – and who doesn’t – for Boston in these final few games of the regular season. 

Boston’s Daniel Theis suffered a season-ending torn meniscus injury in his left knee, and Marcus Smart’s right thumb injury will keep him out for the rest of the regular season with the earliest he might be back being the latter stages of the first round of the playoffs, or sometime during the second round if the Celtics advance that far. 

Boston must also make sure Kyrie Irving and his sore left knee, are good to go for the playoffs. In addition, the Celtics must work Jaylen Brown back into the fold after he suffered a concussion that has kept him out of Boston’s last three games. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has made a point of not allowing himself or his players to use their injury situation as an excuse for not playing good basketball. 

But he knows good basketball for his injury-riddled roster, involves players elevating their play.

“We’re going to be in the process of really looking at ourselves and redistributing responsibility on our team without guys going outside of what they do best,” Stevens said, adding, “We’re going to have to figure out how to play our best basketball.”