Isaiah Thomas Takes the Cake, Holds off Kings

BOSTON – Isaiah Thomas turned 27 on Sunday, and he wanted nothing more than to celebrate the day with a win over his former team.

By halftime, it seemed appropriate to begin lighting Thomas' birthday candles, as the Celtics held a 74-58 advantage over Sacramento at that point.

The Kings, however, wanted him to fight for his wish, so they stormed back during the second half and brought their deficit down to five points with 100 seconds remaining in the game.

But Thomas was not about to let his former squad steal his cake.

“I just tried to end the game and do what I do in the fourth quarter,” he said.

And that’s exactly what he did.

With the C’s holding onto a slim 117-112 lead with a minute and 40 seconds to go, Thomas killed Sacramento’s momentum with a quick scoring burst. He hit a 3-pointer and a running layup that doubled Boston’s lead during just a 14-second span.

IT scored nine of Boston’s 13 points during the final minute and 50 seconds of the game, including a pair of free throws to seal a 128-119 win.

“They’re a huge run team,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of the Kings. “And I thought Isaiah did a great job at the end of helping to put it away.”

Thomas said Stevens had warned the team beforehand that Sacramento has the offensive explosiveness to key a comeback, and that foreboding statement proved true Sunday afternoon.

The Celtics opened up with 46 points for their highest scoring first quarter effort since Feb. 12, 1982. They added 28 more during the second frame, and at one point held a 21-point advantage.

However, Sacramento began clawing away once the second half began.

“In the third quarter we kind of took our foot off the pedal,” said Avery Bradley, whose Celtics were outscored 29-21 during the third frame. “They were able to score easy buckets and we were trying to exchange baskets with them and (were) not getting stops on the defensive end, so they started getting back in the game.

“But,” added Bradley, “the one thing I was happy about was we were able to get make shots and get stops when it counted.”

The Kings hung around for the final quarter and a half. DeMarcus Cousins, who had been cold from the field throughout the majority of the game, hit a number of big shots down the stretch and finished with a game-high 31 points.

But Cousins’ friend and former teammate took all hope away during the final two minutes.

These Thomas takeovers have become quite a common occurrence at TD Garden, and his teammates have utmost faith in him during late-game situations.

“He does a great job at just making tough shots and making the right play,” said Tyler Zeller. “And sometimes he doesn’t even make the shot; he’ll make the play for somebody else and they’ll knock it down.”

Facilitation was Thomas’ game plan early on Sunday afternoon. He had just six points at the half, but had already dished out seven assists by that point. He finished with 22 points, nine dimes, four rebounds and two steals. The 5-foot-9 guard even blocked a shot attempt by Cousins, who has a 14-inch advantage over him.

Thomas’ well-rounded effort and clutch fourth quarter caught the eye of his predecessor, Rajon Rondo, who ran the point in Boston for eight-plus seasons before Thomas arrived.

“That’s what he’s been doing all season for these guys,” Rondo said after the game.

“He’s their guy, he’s the All-Star on the team. They have a lot of glue guys that make the [team] go, but the plays he’s able to make out there, especially at his height… it’s hard. He’s been unstoppable this year.”

The “unstoppable” trend continued for Thomas Sunday afternoon, and the setting – playing against his former team and going toe-to-toe versus his predecessor on his birthday – couldn’t have made for a more perfect storyline.

Thomas seized the moment by blowing the Kings away during the final two minutes. And because of that effort, he’ll be blowing out his birthday candles tonight with a smile on his face.

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