As good as Isaiah Thomas has been this season, he’s not the reason why the Celtics are among the better teams, record-wise, in the NBA.
Boston’s success is fueled in large part because of the steady play of those around Thomas, something that was on display in Thursday night’s 120-111 win over Portland.
Thomas had a game-high 34 points, but Marcus Smart filled the stat sheet in several categories while filling in for Jae Crowder (family emergency), who was not with the team.
Boston (34-19) also got a strong game from its second unit, led by a near double-double from Kelly Olynyk (13 points, 7 rebounds).
“One of the things that this stretch of games, we hope it helps with in the big picture is, we got different guys that have an opportunity,” Stevens told reporters after the win. “To do different things . . . "
Like the put-back dunk by Gerald Green in the fourth quarter that reminded us all that the former slam-dunk champion still has plenty of bounce left in him. Or the hustle plays by Smart. Or the clutch baskets by Jaylen Brown (his 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter gave Boston a one-point lead going into the fourth).
“Hopefully we can keep getting better out of this,” Stevens said.
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Thursday night’s game.
Marcus Smart: Easily the difference-maker on Thursday, Smart had 18 points, 6 rebounds, 5 steals and 5 assists, which included scoring a put-back basket, forcing a turnover and drawing an offensive foul in the final couple minutes of play.
Isaiah Thomas: Just another day at the office for Thomas in leading all scorers with 34 points, 15 of which came in the fourth quarter.
Damian Lillard: Boston had problems limiting him most of the game. Lillard finished with a team-high 26 points -- 10 of which came in the fourth quarter.
Al-Farouq Aminu: He's played some of his best games against the Celtics and Thursday was no exception. Aminu had a season-high 26 points and five assists.
Celtics defense: For most of the game, Boston’s defense struggled defensively once again. The Blazers shot 50.6 percent from the field, a reminder that the C's, while winning, have plenty of room for improvement.