Saturday, January 14, 2017

Brad Stevens trusts Isaiah Thomas' judgement at the end of Hawks win

'All right, go win the game,' Celtics coach Brad Stevens recalled telling Isaiah Thomas moments before his All-Star point guard made one of the biggest shots of the season.

After Hawks forward Paul Millsap drained a 3-pointer to tie the game with 25 seconds left, Thomas immediately looked at his coach and told him not to call a timeout before calling an isolation play that left him in a one-on-one battle against Hawks guard Kent Bazemore.

Thomas dribbled down the clock, headed to his right, stopped and knocked in a step-back jumper right in front of his coach and teammates.
"Usually you'd call timeout in that situation, but he actually -- I could see him down the court, kinda wave off the idea of a timeout," Brad Stevens explained. "I told him, 'All right, go win the game.' That's what you have to do if you wave off an idea of a timeout. I trust him to do that, and ultimately, he's made so many big plays you believe in your guy."
Thomas is quickly making a name for himself as one of the best scorers in the NBA -- currently tied with DeMar DeRozan for fourth in points per game, averaging 28.2 points a night --  and has added "King of the Fourth Quarter" to his reputation. This season, Thomas leads the league in fourth-quarter scoring, averaging 10.7 points a game in the final period.
"I think [Stevens] was trying to call timeout at first. Then he was trying to do a play to run a pick-and-roll, but I called it off a little big," Thomas said. "And he trusts me. At the end he said, 'hell of a shot.' It was something I wanted to try to take advantage of.
"Bazemore had that look in his face like he was going to get a stop, and I had other plans." 
Thomas' game winner topped a 13-point, fourth quarter performance against a team that entered the Friday night's game on a seven-game winning streak and was closely behind the Celtics for third place in the Eastern Conference. Now, the Celtics (25-15) have not only created some space between third and fourth, they're now only 1.5 games behind the Raptors (26-13) for second.

He's also currently on a 34-game streak of scoring at least 18 or more points -- the longest streak in the league. Before Friday's game, LeBron James was second to Thomas with 17 consecutive games -- a streak that was snapped last night in the Cavaliers' win over the Kings -- where James finished with 16 points.

Boston and Toronto both have a fairly light remaining January schedule, both will face a handful of .500 or below teams before they face off for the third time this season on February 1 at TD Garden. Celtics will face eight teams before then, four of those teams hold a .500 or below record, while the Raptors have a busier schedule, playing 10 teams, six of their opponents currently hold a .500 or below mark.

Josue Pavon

Photo used is courtesy of Getty Images

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