The nation got its first glimpse of Isaiah Thomas in a Boston Celtics uniform Wednesday night, and the point guard did not disappoint.
Thomas racked up a season-high 34 points in the first nationally televised game of the season for the Celtics, and Boston kept the Detroit Pistons at bay down the stretch to secure a 113-103 win.
Pistons big men Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond had their way with the Celtics early, scoring 12 of Detroit’s first 14 points, but as soon as Drummond sank a short jumper to put the Pistons up 14-8, the tide turned in a hurry. Led by their bench, the Celtics torched the Pistons for the remainder of the first quarter, closing out the frame on a 22-2 run.
Pretty crazy. http://t.co/f5D4Qrbph4—
Evans Clinchy (@evansclinchy) April 08, 2015
Reserves Thomas, Kelly Olynyk and Jae Crowder all registered plus-20 ratings in six first-quarter minutes as Boston’s lead grew as high as 16.
Tayshaun Prince showed an ability to provide some quick scoring and a calming presence off the bench during his short tenure in Boston, and that’s exactly what he did for Detroit. Prince racked up six points on 3-of-4 shooting, two rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block in the first half to help prevent his former team from running away with things.
Monroe and Drummond also continued to dominate (as they have all season against the Celtics), prompting Brad Stevens to send in forward Jared Sullinger to give Boston’s lineup a bit of extra heft. Sullinger did solidify Boston’s post defense, but his overall impact was minor. The big man played 10 minutes and finished with four points — his first tallies since returning Friday from a 24-game, injury-induced absence.
The Pistons cut the Celtics’ lead down to four in the second while going 13-for-17 from the floor, but Boston’s proficiency at the free-throw line helped it weather the storm. The Celtics went a perfect 18-for-18 from the line in the first half and led 55-47 at the break.
The Pistons continued to threaten in the third, getting to within a point following a Reggie Jackson hot streak (the point guard scored seven straight points as part of a 17-6 Detroit run).
Then … well, we’ll let Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy explain:
“Isaiah Thomas,” Van Gundy said during an in-game interview with ESPN. “We can’t stop him.”
The Pistons had zero answer for the Celtics’ leading scorer over the second half of the third. Thomas poured in 13 points in less than six minutes to push that one-point advantage back up to 17 as the quarter came to a close.
Thomas is clicking on all cylinders at the perfect time for the Celtics. He repeatedly carved up the Pistons on the pick-and-roll, resulting in a either clean looks at the rim or trips to the line, and was on point from beyond the arc. Thomas sank 10 of his 17 field goals and 10 of his 11 free throws against Detroit, and now has scored 82 points in his last three games.
The Brooklyn Nets dropped a 114-111 decision to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday, allowing the Celtics to move up to seventh in the Eastern Conference by virtue of a tiebreaker with Brooklyn. The Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat both sit one game back in ninth and 10th place, respectivley.. The Charlotte Hornets, who lost to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, now sit three games back of the eighth seed and are all but toast.
In other news, the Pistons have been mathematically eliminated.
Up next: Just four games now remain for the Celtics, the next two of which will come against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Celtics travel to Cleveland on Friday, and the Cavs visit TD Garden for a Sunday matinee.
Thumbnail photo via Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports Images