Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas has often been the subject of debates over his relative star power. If anyone is still having them, though, they should end soon. Thomas has been terrific in 2016-17, coming into Friday night’s matchup with the Miami Heat averaging 26.9 points per game with a 26.1 PER. Better yet, Thomas has been one of the league’s best players in the fourth quarter, regularly bringing the Celtics back into games or winning them with his offensive prowess.
Thomas reached new highs vs. the Heat on Friday and grabbed a part of Celtics history in the process. He scored a Boston-record 29 points in the fourth (out of 35 for the team) to withstand a 36-point quarter from Miami and hold on for the 117-114 win.
But that was just the start of his historic performance. The 5-9 Thomas scored 52 points (15-of-26 FG, 9-of-13 3FG, 13-of-13 FT) on the night for the most points from a player under 6-feet since Houston Rockets great Calvin Murphy in March 1978, joined Murphy as the shortest players to score 50 points since 1963-64, and became the fifth Celtic ever to score 50 points in a game. He joins some big names in Boston’s storied history:
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 31, 2016
These were not empty buckets. Thomas shot 9-of-12 in the fourth (including 6-of-8 from deep) to carry the Celtics through some questionable defense at the other end. His performance was a little odd — he also had zero assists in the game, becoming the 16th player in NBA history to put up 50 points with no assists. Yet Thomas also held the ball more than any other Celtic and committed only two turnovers, a sign that he made good decisions overall. Most point guards do not play this way, but it’s also probably time we stop putting that label on Thomas just because of his size.
Whatever we call Thomas, it’s now clear that he is an elite backcourt scorer who will deserve a second-straight All-Star selection in February. He’s far from a perfect player — it’s very difficult to hide a 5-9 player on defense, particularly in the playoffs — and the Celtics probably rely on his shot creation too much for their own good. But those are issues to bring up when comparing Thomas to other stars, not when determining whether to include him in that group.
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