Isaiah Thomas returns and doesn't miss a beat; closes out the Hornets

Isaiah Thomas came off the shelf and dropped 26 points on the visiting Charlotte Hornets last night. For a guy that missed nearly two weeks, he stepped right back into leading role and helped the Celtics run away with the game in the fourth quarter. His ability to create scoring opportunities on his own has been dearly missed over the last four games - the Celtics went 1-3 in that stretch without him. He led the charge when it was time to put the game away by scoring 7 of his 26 points during a 15-0 run in the 4th quarter that put the Celtics ahead for good. Thomas officially closed out the game with this ridiculous pass to Jae Crowder for the C's final bucket of the game:

Isaiah said was a "little rusty" after the 11 days off. He missed a few easy ones he normally makes early, but he definitely seemed to settle in in the 2nd half. Thomas also admitted he was a little gassed at the end of the game, having played the entire 4th quarter. Brad Stevens joked that Isaiah should have been fresh, since he didn't play all week. Via Taylor Snow of

“He hadn’t been doing anything all week,” Stevens deadpanned during his postgame press conference. “In all sincerity, he’s been working really hard to get back, but the rest of those guys have been all over the place (on the road). And I told him the other day on the phone, 'On Friday, we’re going to need you to really give us a spark.'”

As important as IT's scoring may be, the solid defensive effort last night was perhaps the story of the game. The Celtics held Charlotte to 88 points on 32.7% shooting as a team (26.7 from three) - still impressive even though the Hornets were missing their leading scorer Kemba Walker. After the teams health, playing that kind of defense is of outmost importance. That's how the recent Celtic teams have been able to do more with less. They've got to get back to grinding down their opponents on the defensive end. Thomas thinks there's a lot of room to improve, but they're headed in the right direction. Via Jay King of Mass Live:

"For the most part, we're getting our swag back on that end," Thomas said. "We still have a ways to go but we're going to continue to grind it out."

The Celtics trailed by as much as 12 last night, and were able to get the stops necessary to get back into the game. Jae Crowder said after the game that you can forget about last season's success defensively. They've got to build that up all over again:

"We have to have that moving forward," said Crowder. "We can't just build off what we did last year. We have to bring that with us and continue to get better in other situations and other scenarios. But that's one thing we have to get back to -- being a gritty team, and especially in games like this. You have to be able to dig deep and win."

You've gotta start somewhere, and perhaps we'll see last nights defensive effort more often than not going forward.

Photo Credit - Brian Babineau/GETTY Images

Follow Mark on Twitter: @MarkAL401