BOSTON – Isaiah Thomas is making this whole individual record thing an every game kind of thing, it seems.
After scoring a career-high 52 points in Boston’s last game in 2016, Thomas ushered in the new year with another personal record as he tallied a career-high 15 assists in leading Boston to a 115-104 win over the Utah Jazz.
In addition to reaching the milestone in assists, Thomas also led all scorers with 29 points on an efficient 10-for-18 shooting.
When Thomas learned earlier in the day that he did not win Eastern Conference player of the month (Washington’s John Wall was the winner), most of Thomas and Wall’s statistics were similar except in one category – assists.
It wasn’t even close.
One has to wonder if that motivated Thomas to be more of a facilitator against the Jazz, a team that came in allowing a league-low 17.2 assists per game.
“I didn’t plan on it, but I’m just taking what the defense gives me and my guys took care of me and were making shots,” Thomas said after the win.
Indeed, Utah gave Thomas a variety of looks defensively with most designed to get the ball out of his hands.
On many plays he did just that … and put the ball in the hands of his teammates for easy scores.
“He did it in all kinds of ways,” Utah coach Quin Snyder told reporters after the game. “The best plays that he made and the most impactful were when he got to the rim and he’d go up and find people. He was finding people everywhere.”
Utah’s Gordon Hayward echoed similar sentiments about Thomas.
“First off, he’s having a hell of a year so he’s not just doing it against us, he’s doing it against everybody,” Hayward said. “He was good in the paint, making the right read, kicking it out to their shooters. I think this is a unique team because they have their pick and pop five’s (centers), which is different than a lot of teams. We have to change the way that we play defensively. Tonight we struggled with that, we gave up way too much in transition so they got rolling and saw the ball go through the basket and it made it a long night for us.”
And an enjoyable night for Thomas who put together the kind of all-around game that shows he’s more than just a scorer.
“If they give you a lot of attention then you just have to take what they give you and you got to find the open man because they can’t take away everything,” Thomas said. “So if they try to do what they can to take what I bring to the game away, I (have) to find other ways to be an impact in the game.”
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Tuesday night’s game.
He didn’t come close to matching his career-high 52 points from Boston’s Dec. 30 win over Miami. But Thomas was having another career night, tallying a double-double of 29 points along with a career-high 15 assists with just one turnover.
He led the Jazz with 23 points on an efficient 7-for-14 shooting night with a trio of 3-pointers. But Hayward’s imprint on the game was nowhere to be found for really long stretches of play.
He played with a chip on his shoulder from the outset, and that was a good thing for both him and the Celtics. He finished the game with 21 points, the most he has scored since he tallied 21 points against the Brooklyn Nets in the Celtics’ season opener in October. And he did so on 6-for-8 shooting which included 5-for-6 on 3’s.
It was good to see Horford put together not just a strong game offensively, but a balanced one with points coming from 3-point range as well as in the paint on post-ups and drives to the basket. He finished with 21 points on 9-for-16 shooting to go with five rebounds and four assists.
The former Celtic was delivering a very typical “Iso-Joe” like performance for the Jazz. He came off the Utah bench and scored 15 points in under 15 minutes on 6-for-7 shooting.
Maybe the mental and physical fatigue of playing their fourth game in six days, set in on Tuesday. Because the Jazz on the floor Tuesday night didn’t look anything like the team that came into the game leading the NBA in fewest points allowed per game this season. The Celtics shot 55.4 percent from the field and made 17 3-pointers which tied the franchise record.