BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas has proclaimed his love for the city of Boston time and time again.
But when it comes to facing his former Celtics teammates, who have shown tremendous growth since he was traded, well, that’s another story.
“As a competitor, I hate it,” Thomas said. “But to see them jelling how they are and playing the best basketball of any team in the NBA right now, you have to take your hats off to them. They have great players, a great coaching staff that’s putting them in position to be successful.”
The Wizards became the latest to find this out the hard way as the Celtics extended their winning streak to nine following a 140-133 victory over Washington.
Boston (9-1) will begin a five-game Western trip on Friday night against the Golden State Warriors as they hit the road with the best record in the NBA.
Having that kind of status was something Thomas felt could happen during his time in Boston which included him being named an All-Star in back-to-back seasons.
But a significant hip injury and a slow recovery time derailed what was shaping up to be a promising future for the last player selected in the 2011 NBA draft.
Now Thomas finds himself back on the grind trying to prove that the player he was in Boston, can be resurrected in Washington.
Wednesday’s game, while not ending the way Thomas wanted, was indeed a step in the right direction.
Thomas finished with 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting along with seven assists.
But considering how dominant a scorer he was while in Boston, Thomas knows he’ll have to string together many more games like that before he will truly be back to the player he once was.
“It’s tough because I want it all back right now,” Thomas said. “But I can’t skip any steps. I have to take it one day at a time. I’ve been doing that. This opportunity has been good for me; coach [Scott Brooks] believes in me, my teammates believe in me and that’s all that matters.”
Thomas has been a favorite of head coach Brad Stevens since he left, and has remained close to a number of his teammates including Marcus Smart.
“I.T. was a great teammate,” Smart recently told NBC Sports Boston. “Going through all that he has gone through, not just playing but with life, you want to see him do well, you want to see him succeed.
Smart added with a grin, “but you want to beat him, too.”
And that is what made Wednesday’s game a bittersweet one for Thomas.
Even though Washington (2-7) has one of the worst records in the NBA, Thomas came into Wednesday’s game confident that he could play well and that Washington would find a way to get the victory.
For most of the game, the Wizards stayed within striking distance and even played with a lead from time to time.
In addition to Thomas, Washington also got a big game from All-Star guard Bradley Beal, who led all scorers with 44 points.
“It felt good to be out there,” Thomas, visibly disappointed, said shortly after the loss. “But I just want to win. We didn’t get the job and that was the most important thing. But overall it felt good to be back and play some meaningful minutes.”
Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Warriors, which tips off Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.