Celtics Classics: Isaiah Thomas drops career-high 52 vs. Heat

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Celtics Classics: Isaiah Thomas drops career-high 52 vs. Heat

With the coronavirus pandemic putting the NBA on hold for a while, the Boston Celtics haven't been in action for almost two weeks. But while they're on break, NBC Sports Boston is taking time to re-air some Celtics classics that encompass some of the team's most memorable games in recent seasons.

At 7 p.m. on Monday night, Celtics fans will get a chance to re-live one of the best moments of the Isaiah Thomas era, the game in which Thomas dropped a career-high 52 points against the Miami Heat on Dec. 30, 2016.

That contest was one of the most electric ones of Thomas' brief but impactful Celtics tenure. IT, also known as "The King in the Fourth" and, affectionately, "The Little Guy" was a fan-favorite in Boston because of his pure scoring ability and how he helped to lead the C's back to prominence amid a rebuild.

Thomas' coming-out party in 2016 made the Celtics fun to watch and few, if any, NBA teams wanted to face the scrappy, competitive bunch that managed to overcome the odds and earn the East's No. 1 seed.

The game against Miami was one of the first moments that C's fans really felt like the 2016-17 bunch could have what it takes to compete for a championship. And IT's red-hot performance from the field in the 117-114 Celtics victory makes it stand out as one of the best games of his career.

The re-airing of the game begins at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Boston and can be live-streamed then by clicking here.

Shane Larkin's lone season with Celtics "huge step" toward EuroLeague superstardom

Shane Larkin's lone season with Celtics "huge step" toward EuroLeague superstardom

BOSTON -- While Shane Larkin appeared in 54 games (two starts) with the Boston Celtics, playing time wasn’t nearly as plentiful as he would have wanted. 

But like most of the players who have come through town since head coach Brad Stevens’ arrival in 2013, Larkin left on good terms. 

And some of the lessons learned during his time in Boston, Larkin credits for being instrumental in his growth and development into arguably the best player in EuroLeague play this past season. 

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“Overall, I became a much better basketball player, playing in Boston,” Larkin said on the Celtics Talk Podcast. “Just the way I saw the game, the way I read the game.”

While playing with Turkey’s Anadolu Efes, Larkin led the team to a EuroLeague-best record while averaging 22.2 points on 53.0 percent shooting from the field, 50.9 percent shooting on 3’s, along with making 90.3 percent of his free throws. 

As a Celtic, Larkin acknowledged having a familiar face also helped his acclimation process. 

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Larkin had an established relationship with Celtics assistant coach Jay Larranaga, whose father Jim Larranaga was Larkin’s head coach at the University of Miami. 

In Boston, Jay Larranaga was the Celtics’ assistant coach who Larkin spent the most time working with on his shooting and various ball-handling skills. 

On those nights when Larkin would not get into games or play limited minutes, he was back in the gym the following day with Larranaga, focused on improving his all-around game to best ensure when his opportunity to play arrived that he would indeed be ready. 

“That year, on the court and off the court, mentally, physically, I just took a huge step in my development as a man, as a player,” Larkin said. “And it has really helped me get to where I am today.

Larkin added, “Boston has a great thing, a great setup right now. And if you’re lucky enough to be a Celtic at this current time, you’re definitely going to come out of there in much better shape than you went in.”

Ex-Celtic Shane Larkin reflects on EuroLeague season shutdown, his own future

Ex-Celtic Shane Larkin reflects on EuroLeague season shutdown, his own future

BOSTON -- Shane Larkin’s expectations playing internationally weren’t all that different than his days in college at Miami or during his stints in the NBA, the last of which was two years ago with the Boston Celtics. 

He wants to compete; and in doing so, wins usually follow. 

That was indeed the case for Larkin, who played with Turkey’s Anadolu Efes squad, which had its sights on being this year’s EuroLeague champion. 

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But those dreams were dashed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which was at the heart of the EuroLeague cancelling the remainder of this season, one in which Larkin was the league’s top scorer and his team had the best overall record prior to the season prematurely ending. 

“It’s a bittersweet feeling,” Larkin said on the CelticsTalk Podcast. “We were in first place. We had a great season going on. So, I felt we had a great opportunity to win a championship. But at the end of the day, sometimes things happen like that with a bigger purpose. This virus came around and impacted people in so many negative ways. I just think right now, health is more important than chasing a championship. At the end of the day, I think it’s the right decision. Health is the most important thing and that’s the reason they canceled it, so it’s cool with me.”

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Larkin had an Instagram post recently that included his thoughts on the league resuming play while indicating that a “large majority” of players did not want to resume playing under the current status of the COVID-19 virus. 

Knowing that would mean an abrupt and premature ending to this fairy tale of a season for him and his teammates, was a tough pill to swallow. 

“We were all dying to get out there and play,” he said. “We’re all disappointed that we won’t have a chance to fight for a championship but we’re all good with the decision because health is the most important thing.”

Larkin, who was with the Celtics during the 2017-2018 season, became an international star this season. 

He led Anadolu Efe in scoring with 22.2 points per game while connecting on 53.0 percent of his shots from the field, 50.9 percent from 3-point range and 90.3 percent from the free throw line. 

Larkin’s numbers in Boston -- 4.3 points while appearing in 54 games -- weren’t nearly as good as they were overseas in large part because he was playing behind Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart.

He looks back on his time in Boston with fond memories; well, most of the time, anyway. 

“I used to think about it (that season) a lot,” Larkin said. “Especially the way it ended for me; it was kind of unfortunate.”

Larkin’s season ended in Game 4 of Boston’s playoff series against Philadelphia when he suffered a left shoulder injury while trying to go underneath a Joel Embiid screen.

“I was done for the rest of the playoffs,” Larkin recalled. “So I always think about how I could have maneuvered that screen a little differently to try and help the team out. But it was an unbelievable run. I saw a lot of guys take their careers to another level in that series.”

The same can be said for Larkin with what he has done overseas. 

His numbers this past season validate him as arguably the best player in the EuroLeague, which is widely considered the next-best professional basketball league in the world, behind the NBA.

Larkin will be a free agent this summer and is open to pretty much whatever comes his way be it in the NBA or picking up where he left off overseas. 

“I don’t know when any of my free agency stuff will start,” Larkin said. “So, I’m sitting around, waiting for that to happen; stay in shape, keep my body right and see what happens. In this current state, nobody knows what’s going to happen anytime soon. So, I have to stay prepared for any opportunities that come across and see what happens."