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.
- Highlights: Boston Celtics 96, Charlotte Hornets 88
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- Celtics use late run to propel them to 96-88 win vs. Hornets
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.