Stars, studs and duds: Celtics lean on Horford after Thomas ejection

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics lean on Horford after Thomas ejection

Al Horford will be called upon to play many roles for the Boston Celtics. But when it comes to being the team’s closer, that job belongs to Isaiah Thomas … unless Thomas gets isn’t around which was the case on Sunday night after he was ejected with 3:02 to play. 

No Thomas down the stretch, no problem for the Celtics who leaned on Horford who delivered a strong fourth quarter in helping Boston fend off a Miami rally for a 105-95 Celtics victory. 


The 6-foot-10 big man did a nice job down the stretch of having mismatches in the post - once he was guarded by 6-4 Tyler Johnson and on another possession, 6-8 James Johnson - and making the most of them with baskets.

“I do what coach (Brad Stevens) tells me to do,” Horford told reporters after the win. “We ran a couple plays for me.”

Horford had 17 points, 11 of which he scored in the fourth quarter. The four-time All-Star contributed in other areas as well, leading the Celtics in rebounds and assists with seven and eight, respectively. 

“That’s what they pay him to do,” quipped Thomas, making a not-so-veiled reference to Horford’s four-year, $113 million contract he signed during the offseason. “That’s what he does. Nine times out of ten he makes the right play. Whether that’s score for himself or make a nice pass to a teammate for a basket or get an offensive rebound; whatever it may be.

Thomas added, “He’s always in the right spot at the right time. We depend on Al to do those type of things. We know he’s capable of doing it. I’m glad he made those plays and we got the win.”

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



Al Horford

Big baskets down the stretch were only part of a strong all-around game for Horford who finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and eight assists with the latter two stats both being team highs for the Celtics. 

Goran Dragic

He leads the NBA in drives to the basket, but on Sunday he was all about finishing. He lit the Celtics up for 31 points on 12-for-21 shooting which included five 3-pointers. He also managed to dish out seven assists and grab five rebounds.

Hassan Whiteside

Once again Whiteside had a monster game against the Boston Celtics, tallying 23 points to go with 17 rebounds and three blocked shots. But again, most of Whiteside’s damage came about after the Celtics were in control and the Heat were trying to chip away at Boston’s lead.



Isaiah Thomas

His fourth quarter ejection aside, there was a lot to like about Isaiah Thomas’ play. He led the Celtics with 23 points, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter before being ejected with 3:02 to play. Thomas also had four assists and a plus/minus of +12 which was tops among all Celtics.



Thomas’ ejection

On a night when so much went right for the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas being ejected with 3:02 to play was the one blight on the night. The Celtics still won which was a good thing for them, but the victory would have been a lot sweeter if their top scorer were able to finish out the game. 

Marcus Morris leads Celtics to comeback victory over Trail Blazers, 105-100

AP Photo

Marcus Morris leads Celtics to comeback victory over Trail Blazers, 105-100

In the first quarter, the Boston Celtics had one of those “not again!” moments when Marcus Morris, with a noticeable limp, headed to the Celtics locker room with a member of the training staff. 

Even though it didn’t seem like that big a deal, Celtics fans have seen this scene before and more often than not – at least this season – it hasn’t ended well for Boston. 

Fortunately for Boston, Morris went back to get his right ankle re-taped, returned to the floor and started to do Marcus Morris-like things like, you know, hit late-game daggers. 

Morris, whose 3-pointer lifted Boston to an improbable win earlier this week over Oklahoma City, was once again coming through in the clutch as Boston swept the season series against Portland with a 105-100 win. 

“I’m just being aggressive and … shots are going down for me,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin after the win.

Boston’s execution in the closing seconds was huge for the Celtics, but it was Morris’ 3-pointer with less than a minute to play that gave the Celtics a 101-96 lead that would later serve as the game-winning shot, his second in as many games. 

Morris also led all players with 30 points, with Terry Rozier (16 points) and Jayson Tatum (13 points) also coming up big for Boston. 

The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum who each had 26 points.

Morris’ big game came hours after the Celtics learned that leading scorer Kyrie Irving was going to have a “minimally invasive” procedure performed on Saturday, which meant the Celtics would have to continue searching for a go-to scorer in Irving’s absence.

That player appears to be Morris who led the Celtics to yet another unlikely win against one of the better teams in the NBA. 

Morris’ late-game heroics began earlier in the fourth when he hit a top-of-the-key 3-pointer that put Boston up 85-84 with 6:26 to play. 

But the Blazers responded with a 7-2 run with all seven points scored by McCollum to put Portland back on top 91-87.

Boston came back with four straight points to tie the game at 91, with all four points being scored by Al Horford only for Lillard, following an offensive rebound by Al-Farouq Aminu, hit a go-ahead 3-pointer.

But back came Boston, scoring five straight that included a pair of go-ahead free throws by Rozier with 2:07 to play.


Irving's procedure means Celtics may add player via 'hardship roster exception'

Irving's procedure means Celtics may add player via 'hardship roster exception'

With Kyrie Irving undergoing a “minimally invasive procedure” on Saturday, the Boston Celtics may look to add a player via the “hardship roster exception” that only teams that are significantly impacted by injuries, are eligible for. 

MORE - Doctor: Irving could return in 'three to four weeks'

The Celtics won’t have a clear sense of what the timetable will be for Irving’s return until after his procedure is performed. 

But it’s likely to be at least a couple weeks which at the earliest would put Irving’s return just before the playoffs. 

In order to qualify for the NBA’s hardship roster exception, at least four players must miss a minimum of three consecutive games, and later be deemed to be out for an additional two weeks. 

Gordon Hayward (dislocated left ankle) and Daniel Theis (torn meniscus, left knee) are out for the season, and Marcus Smart (right thumb) recently underwent surgery that will keep him sidelined for at least another five weeks. 

An independent doctor will determine if the extent of the aforementioned injuries as well as the recovery time for Irving, meet the two-week criteria to be eligible for the hardship roster exception. 

Once that’s determined, Boston will be given a hardship roster exception to use on a player for the remainder of the regular season but won’t be eligible for the postseason. 

If Boston does add a player, look for him to come from the Gatorade League, possibly their G-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. 

Boston has a collection of guards who have helped fill the void left by Irving’s absence, but Boston has not been able to address the loss of Daniel Theis. 

Keep an eye on former No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett, a 6-foot-8 forward who averaged 16.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Red Claws this season. 

MORE - Hayward gives update on rehab

Boston has a 45-day cap on the use of its two-way players with the parent team, but that limitation ends tomorrow which means guard/forward Jabari Bird and guard Kadeem Allen can earn the league minimum for every day they are with the Celtics going forward in the regular season. That can provide some depth to a Celtics team that because of injuries, can use every healthy body they can find.