BOSTON - Isaiah Thomas' importance to the Celtics was well understood long before he dropped 42 points in Game 3 to carry them to victory.
But it did hammer home the fact that this Celtics team relies on Thomas to do a bulk of the scoring. Too much, to be honest.
Brad Stevens said it himself after Game 3: Thomas will never have a greener light than he has here in Boston. A lot of that is due to how great of a scorer he is. But at least part of it is due to not having another bonafide scorer out there with him.
Generally speaking, take away Thomas, and things get ugly fast on offense.
But on Sunday, Thomas wasn't needed to score every single time down the floor as he's been tasked to do in the past. He had lots of help this time, and that's actually a great sign as the Celtics head back to Atlanta for Game 5 tied 2-2.
The first team positive came right off the jump, with Jae Crowder hitting a three-pointer to put the C's on the board. Crowder has struggled mightily with his shot in the series, but Sunday was a big step in the right direction as he hit his first three shots of the game to get the C's going.
Jonas Jerebko once again got the start and though he didn't make a huge mark early on, came on strong in the later stages, closing the third quarter with two big three-pointers during Boston's big run and beginning the fourth quarter with a couple more jump shots on his way to 16 points.
Evan Turner had 17 points, seven rebounds, and six assists in a team-high 44:38 of playing time. Amir Johnson scored five of his nine points in overtime.
And then you had Marcus Smart, the real hero of Sunday's win. Smart proved to be the kryptonite for Paul Millsap, who finished with 45 points but just two with Smart guarding him for the majority of the fourth quarter and overtime. And Smart did it on the offensive end as well, scoring 20 points on 7-for-15 shooting and dishing out five assists.
"We wear those shirts, 'We're one superstar' And you never know who's going to have it going," Crowder said. "Guys really stepped up and made one big play after big play. Jonas and Evan, all of us, we just tried to take what the defense gave us and move the ball and play within ourselves and it worked out."
Said Turner, "We rocked out the past two games. I thought we did our thing the last two games and everyone played pretty well last game and tonight. If you look at the stat sheet, I think Jonas had a double-double, Smart had 20, I did pretty well, Jae bounced back and did his thing. We all did a great job as a unit."
Of course, Thomas still had a strong game, finishing with a team-high 28 points. He hit the game-tying layup with 15 seconds remaining in regulation and then hit the dagger three-pointer in overtime to turn a four-point Celtics lead into a seven-point lead with 30 seconds to go.
But that the Celtics were getting huge shots like that from a number of players on the team all throughout the game had Thomas feeling better about this win than the one in which he carried them.
“It says a lot. I think it does say more [than Game 3's win]," Thomas said. "We played well to start the game, but we didn’t play great. The start of the second half was horrible for us, they made every shot, we couldn’t get anything going on the offensive end but we didn’t put our heads down. I think we were down 14 or 16 points and we just kept at it. Knowing what was at stake and we just stayed the course. That says a lot about this team and our fans continued to cheer, continued to help us out energy wise. We fought back and we got the win.”