BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas is back in the Celtics' starting lineup after missing two games with a knee injury. 

And his return could not have come at a better time, with the Celtics hosting the Washington Wizards tonight. 

The C's (44-26) have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference this season, with the Wizards (42-27) on their heels at 1 1/2 games back. 

Boston needs to win tonight to have a shot at winning a tie-breaker if it finishes with an identical regular-season record as Washington.  And the return of Thomas, the league's No. 2 scorer at 29.2 points per game, can only help. 

The Celtics split a pair of road games at Brooklyn (win) and Philadelphia (loss) with Thomas back in Boston recovering from a bruised knee injury suffered against Minnesota last week. 

This season, the Celtics are just 2-4 when Thomas doesn't play, so his return to the lineup provides a much-needed boost in what will be a critical game to their potential seeding for the postseason.