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.
- Highlights: Boston Celtics 105, Miami Heat 95
- Thomas on ejection vs. Heat: 'Im far from a dirty player'
- Celtics build huge lead, hang on to beat Heat, 105-95
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.