Friday night at the TD Garden in Boston, Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas posted one of the best scoring efforts of the NBA season to date. Thomas established a new career high with 52 points in Boston’s 117-114 win over the Miami Heat, shooting 15-for-26 from the field (9-for-13 3PT) and 13-for-13 from the foul line. Boston needed every one of those points as the Heat managed to hang with the Celtics throughout the night and trailed by four points going into the final quarter.
The fourth quarter was when Thomas was at his best, as he scored 29 points to reach 52 for the night. Thomas’ fourth quarter effort fell two points short of the NBA record for the most points in a fourth quarter in NBA history, as Wilt Chamberlain scored 31 in his 100-point game. Thomas reached 50 on a three-pointer with 37.2 seconds remaining that gave the Celtics a 111-106 lead. Boston scored 35 points total in the fourth quarter, with Jaylen Brown, Al Horford and Marcus Smart scoring two points apiece to supplement Thomas’ 29-point explosion. Horford and Smart didn’t score their points until the final minute of the game, making two foul shots apiece.
Thomas’ performance came one night after he scored 31 points and dished out nine assists in a loss in Cleveland. And in that game the Celtics mounted a fourth-quarter rally with Thomas, the 60th and final pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, on the bench for most of it. Thomas is the sixth player to score 50 points or more in a game this season, with Golden State guard Klay Thompson tallying a season-best 60 in a 36-point win over Indiana on December 5.
Also on that list are Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins (55 vs. Portland on December 20), Washington’s John Wall (52 vs. Orlando on December 6), Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook (51 vs. Phoenix on October 28) and Anthony Davis (50 vs. Denver on October 26). Wall and Davis’ high-scoring nights came in games in which their respective teams suffered defeats.
This is the eighth time in Celtics history that a player has scored 50 points or more in a game, with Hall of Fame forward Larry Bird doing it four times. The last Celtic to reach the 50-point mark in a game prior to Friday was Paul Pierce, who scored 50 points in a 113-109 double overtime loss to Cleveland on February 15, 2006.
Bird still holds the franchise record for points scored in a game, as he lit up the Atlanta Hawks for 60 on March 12, 1985 in New Orleans.