Stars, studs and duds: Thomas provides spark in return to Celtics lineup

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas provides spark in return to Celtics lineup

BOSTON – Having been off a week while the rest of the Boston Celtics were globe-trotting across the country from one city to another, head coach Brad Stevens told Isaiah Thomas that the team was going to need him to provide a spark against the always-pesky Charlotte Hornets.

Did he ever. 

Thomas, who had not played since Dec. 5 at Houston because of a right groin injury, returned just in time to get the Celtics back on a winning track with a 96-88 win. 


The 5-foot-9 guard had a game-high 26 points and five assists in helping Boston (14-12) snap a three-game losing streak while the Hornets (14-13) have now lost four straight. 

And while Thomas acknowledged the groin is not 100 percent healthy, he isn’t playing with any kind of minutes restriction. 

That was clear by him playing 35 minutes which included the entire fourth quarter. 

“I was happy about that,” Thomas said. “It felt good for the most part. I was a little rusty but it felt good to help my team and most importantly, for us to get a win.”

Not surprisingly, Thomas’ teammates were pleased to see him back on the floor. 

“IT (Thomas) is just one of a kind,” Celtics guard Terry Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He does what he do, night-in and night-out. That’s why he’s an All-Star. We’re all happy to have him back. And as you can see he had his welcome back game … it was unbelievable.”

Celtics big man Al Horford added, “it helps tremendously (having Thomas back). It helps all of us. It opens the floor even more, teams have to play us a little more honest, and it’s just good to have him back.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Friday’s game as the Celtics get back to their winning ways.



Isaiah Thomas

He wasn’t nearly as sharp as he wanted to be, but Thomas was a stud when the game was up in the air. He finished with 26 points – his season average – along with five assists.

Nicolas Batum

Playing without Kemba Walker (out for personal reasons), Batum picked up much of the offensive slack for the Hornets. He finished with his seventh double-double of the season with a team-high 22 points to go with 10 rebounds and five assists.



Al Horford

He’s an inside-out big man, but on Friday he was wearing out the Charlotte frontcourt inside the paint. It was one of the few games this season where Horford seemed intent on causing problems for foes around the basket. The end result was a strong all-around game in which he scored 18 points, grabbed a team-high eight rebounds in addition to registering five blocked shots which was more than the entire Charlotte team (4) had combined.



Charlotte shooting

The Hornets came into the game ranked 26th in the NBA when it came to shooting. But Friday’s performance was a sub-par night for them from the field, even by their lowly standards. A 43.4 percent shooting team this season, the Celtics limited Charlotte to just 32.7 percent shooting which included just 27.1 percent in the second half. 

WATCH: Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans

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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.

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

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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.”