BOSTON – All the talk following Boston’s 117-114 victory over the Miami Heat centered around Isaiah Thomas and his career-high 52 points which was the fourth-highest scoring performance by a Celtic.
But more important than his individual success was the fact that the Celtics (20-14) came away with the win to close out 2016.
“We talked about that,” said Celtics forward Jae Crowder. “We just wanted to get a win. It was a tough one for us, to bounce back from (losing at Cleveland Thursday night) and come in here and get a win. Physically, it was tough on us.”
- Highlights: Boston Celtics 117, Miami Heat 114
- Postgame reaction to Isaiah Thomas' career night vs. Heat
- Horford: Isaiah Thomas 'on another level' in career night vs. Heat
- Isaiah Thomas on 52 points: You dream about things like this
- Thomas drops career-high 52 points in Celtics 117-114 win over Heat
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said his team looked like they were dragging a bit when they showed up for the team’s pre-game shoot-around, which wasn’t all that surprising when you consider they were playing their sixth game in nine days.
“Miami played well,” Stevens said. “They made timely jump shots – they made a lot of jump shots. We knew this was going to be really hard. Sometimes you’ve got to find a way, and man, did he (Thomas) find a way.”
But even more important than the game was its outcome – a Celtics victory.
“Oh it’s huge,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “We’ve had a tough stretch here, and to be able to come out and respond, Avery (Bradley) not being here tonight, and Isaiah stepping up in this way, it’s the perfect way to close out the year.”
Here are the Stars (OK tonight, there was just one star and I think we know who that is), Studs and Duds from Friday night’s game.
52 points. Nine 3-pointers. There really isn’t much to say after one of the best individual performances we have seen this season, and one that ranks among the best scoring nights ever by a Boston Celtic.
Friday’s Heat game was a nice bounce-back performance by Horford who had six points on 3-for-9 shooting at Cleveland on Thursday. Against Miami, Horford had 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting with six rebounds, four assists and a steal.
Richardson was filling up the stat sheet for the Heat all night, scoring 19 points to go with six rebounds, eight assists, four steals and two blocked shots.
Like Richardson, Johnson’s versatility was a major factor in the Heat staying within striking distance most of the night. He finished with a team-high 22 points off the bench to go with six assists, two steals and two blocked shots.
The fact that Isaiah Thomas went off for 52 points and the Celtics needed damn near every one of those points, is not a good thing. They will take a couple days off to rest, recover and hopefully return with a renewed focus towards playing great defense. Because the way they played at that end of the floor was good enough to beat the Heat, a team with more than twice as many losses (24) as wins (10) this season. But to be among the elite teams or on a level just below that, the Celtics have to get better – a lot better – defensively.