Isaiah Thomas is one of the few key players on the Celtics that haven't missed any time this season, and it's a good thing he hasn't. The C's are off to a solid start - 12-8, which is good for 3rd in the Eastern Conference - but some uneven play from the team has led to some frustration. For whatever reason, they often play to the level of their opponents. Barely grinding out a win over a bad 76ers team who was missing three of it's best players, while you were operating at full strength, is just the latest example. IT came up big in the 4th quarter Saturday night, and that's one of the few things C's fans can count on.
There's been three constants with this Celtics team:
1. The Celtics are not good at rebounding the basketball. After 20 games they've only managed to out-rebound their opponent on 3 different occasions (two of those games were against Brooklyn so I'm not even sure I can count them). They are tied with the Knicks for last in the league in Defensive Rebound Percentage. They've only grabbed 73.5% of available DefRBs. Via Basketball-reference.com:
2. You can count on Isaiah Thomas to score some points. He's had 20+ points all but one game this season, a blowout loss to Golden State in which he came up just short with 18 - in part because the starters sat the 4th quarter. Isaiah is 2nd in the Eastern Conference (9th in NBA) with his 26.3 ppg, behind only DeMar DeRozan who sits at 27.9 ppg.
3. When the game is on the line in the 4th quarter, Thomas is at his best. He put the Celtics on his back Saturday night scoring 37 points in all, but his 12 straight points in the 4th quarter were crucial to dragging his team across the finish with a W. IT has been doing this all season, and he sits at 3rd in the NBA in 4th quarter scoring. Via NBA.com:
Asked about his success in the fourth quarter, Thomas claims it has a lot to do with his drive to be great:
After the game Saturday night, Al Horford told reporters he thinks it's Isaiah's tenacity that makes him so successful when the game is on the line. Via Chris Forsberg, ESPN:
"He's just very relentless," Al Horford told reporters in Philadelphia. "He goes hard, and when he gets into that zone, he's fun to watch."
Brad Stevens knows how effective Thomas has been in the 4th quarter, and he's let him do his thing when it's time to close out the game. Isaiah ranks 2nd in the NBA in Usage in the final frame, just behind Russell Westbrook:
Highest 4th quarter usage rate in the NBA? Isaiah Thomas is second only to Russell Westbrook.— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) December 4, 2016
📰: https://t.co/lABO4cKsS5 pic.twitter.com/ReWFmQ0S0C
Stevens on IT's 4th quarter play:
"He's really good. He's really, really good," Stevens told reporters in Philadelphia. "My advice to anybody is to talk whoever you work for into buying League Pass and watch him as much as you can. Because he's a fun guy to watch."
Although his late game scoring has been his signature, Thomas isn't so much concerned with those numbers as he is with just winning the games:
"I love the fourth quarter. I just want to win," Thomas told reporters in Philadelphia. "So whether it's making plays for myself or making plays for my teammates, it's about making the right plays."
IT rocking the number 4 on the front of his jersey seems very appropriate.
Related: Isaiah Thomas, Mr. 4th quarter
Photo Credit - Barry Chin/ Boston Globe
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Mark Allison 12/05/2016 11:49:00 AM Tweet Edit