BOSTON, MA - APRIL 22: Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics looks on during the fourth quarter of Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks at TD Garden on April 22, 2016 in Boston, Massa
AP Photo
April 23, 2016

BOSTON (AP) Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas was spared a suspension for taking a swing at Atlanta's Dennis Schroder, remaining eligible for Game 4 of the first-round playoff series against the Hawks after getting hit Saturday with a flagrant foul instead.

Thomas scored a career-high 42 points in Boston's 111-103 victory Friday night, helping the Celtics avoid a 3-0 hole in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 is Sunday in Boston.

Thomas swung his arm at Schroder in the first quarter, hitting him in the side of the head. He said he spent a restless night before getting the word from Celtics president Danny Ainge on Saturday afternoon that he wouldn't be suspended.

The NBA announced that Thomas was assessed a Flagrant 1 foul.

''The right call,'' Thomas said after practice. ''If I tried to hit somebody, I would have hit him.''

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he was happy to have Thomas available for Game 4, but that he didn't spend too much time worrying about it. The second-year NBA coach said he didn't have the experience to know the difference between a Flagrant 1 and Flagrant 2 foul. (A Flagrant 2 foul leads to an automatic ejection.)

But Stevens said he wasn't surprised that the teams started playing more physically as the series went on.

''You're playing a team for the fourth time. They're all competitive; they're all tough players,'' he said. ''I trust that nothing would ever go over the line. You hope that nothing like that ever happens. That obviously isn't good for the game.''

Stevens said Ainge, who was himself a provocateur in his playing days, talked to the team about keeping things under control. Forward Jae Crowder said the Celtics will monitor their aggressiveness while not allowing themselves to be pushed around.

''We try to play the right way,'' he said. ''We don't want to ever throw a cheap shot.''

After Friday's game, Hawks guard Kyle Korver said coach Mike Budenholzer went over the rules with them before the playoffs started and warned them that throwing a punch would get them suspended.

''I know Dennis said he got hit,'' Korver said. ''But I'm sure we'll hear and see a lot about it in the next couple days.''

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