Celtics eliminate Pistons from race, 113-103
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) Isiah Thomas had more than a few great games during the Pistons-Celtics rivalry of the 1980s and 1990s.
Wednesday, his namesake had his turn.
Isaiah Thomas had a season-high 34 points as the Celtics picked up a key victory and eliminated Detroit from playoff contention, beating the Pistons 113-103 Wednesday night.
Thomas is named after the Pistons Hall of Fame guard, although his first name was altered to the traditional biblical spelling. He looked like the older version on Wednesday.
Playing under the original's retired No. 11 jersey, Thomas sliced through the Pistons' defense at will.
''A lot of this game came down to the fact that we just couldn't contain Isaiah Thomas,'' Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. ''We couldn't keep him out of the paint, we couldn't stay with him on pick-and-rolls and when we tried to trap him, he just went around our bigs.''
Thomas didn't start, but ended up playing 30 minutes as Boston's bench put up 73 points. He only 17 shots to put up his huge numbers, going 10 for 17 from the floor. He hit four of his eight 3-pointers, and went 10 for 11 from the line.
''He was just great - he's a really skilled player,'' Boston coach Brad Stevens said of the point guard picked up at the trading deadline. ''He was playing with really skilled groups tonight and he was getting to the rim and getting his shots.
''We don't need him to get 34 points every night, but we need him to be good.''
The victory moved Boston into a tie for the Eastern Conference's seventh playoff spot with Brooklyn.
''This was a big game for us, and we played within ourselves,'' said Jae Crowder, who had 17 points, most while playing alongside Thomas. ''We executed everything we needed to do, and they didn't make many adjustments on the pick and roll. It was good.''
Van Gundy, who had already been guaranteed the first losing season of his coaching career, will also miss the postseason for the first time.
Reggie Jackson had 21 points and 15 assists. Greg Monroe had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Pistons, and Andre Drummond added 22 points and 14 rebounds.
''We had three guys with double-doubles and shot 54 percent, but we got blown out,'' Van Gundy said. ''There better not be any player in our locker room who is happy with their numbers, because we didn't play winning basketball. They know that.''
Monroe returned after missing 11 games with a knee sprain, and looked good with two early baskets, including a dunk. That was the only good news early for Detroit, though, as the Celtics scored the last 18 points of the quarter to take a 30-16 lead. Thomas had nine points in the quarter, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Pistons rallied in the second period, hitting seven of their first eight shots, but Boston still had a 55-47 lead at the intermission. Monroe led Detroit with 12 points and five rebounds, while Thomas had 11 points for Boston and Brandon Bass added 11.
Having Monroe back also seemed to solve Detroit's recent defensive-rebounding problems. Still, Boston had a 14-6 edge in points off turnovers and an 18-4 advantage in free throws.
''We just have to be more aggressive,'' Monroe said. ''It's pretty simple.''
Van Gundy benched Drummond early in the third quarter after he allowed an easy dunk by Kelly Olynyk. The move seemed to spark the Pistons, who got within a point, but three-point plays by Thomas and Crowder helped Boston pull back away.
This time, the Celtics finished the quarter with a 19-4 run, including 13 from Thomas, to take a 91-74 lead into the fourth.
Thomas made sure the Pistons never made a serious run down the stretch.
Celtics: Jonas Jerebko got a loud ovation when checking into the game late in the first period. Jerebko was drafted by Detroit in 2009, and was the team's longest-serving player when he was sent to Boston in a trading-deadline deal for Tayshaun Prince.
Pistons: Jackson averaged 20.9 points and 10.8 assists while Monroe was out, taking advantage of less traffic in the paint to put up a 20/20 game and two triple-doubles. That could easily be the situation next season, with Monroe expected to leave as an unrestricted free agent, but they worked well together on Wednesday.
Celtics: At the Cavaliers on Friday.
Pistons: Host the Pacers on Friday.