Isaiah Thomas’ Crossover Almost Broke a Player’s Ankle Last Night

Thomas continues to lead the upstart Celtics on one of the most surprising NBA playoff chases in recent memory.

Image via AP

Image via AP

Over the second half of the season, Isaiah Thomas has been on a mission to show his All-Star selection wasn’t a fluke. He once again stole the show in the Celtics’ win over the New Orleans Pelicans Wednesday night.

Thomas led all scorers with 32 points in the Celtics’ 104-97 victory, which catapults Boston to a tie with the Atlanta Hawks for third place in the Eastern Conference. With four games remaining before the playoffs, it seems to be a given that the Celtics will have home court advantage for at least one round.

The highlight of Thomas’ evening came late in the fourth quarter, when he unleashed a punishing crossover on Pelicans guard Tim Frazier before kicking the ball out to Avery Bradley for the game-clinching three. Frazier fell to the ground after the move and is day-to-day with a rolled ankle—though New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry joked he may be out for “two-and-a-half years.”

Thomas’ jaw-dropping ball handling was the second highlight of the quarter for the C’s. Roughly 30 seconds earlier, forward Amir Johnson swatted an open-court dunk attempt by Luke Babbit into the hands of guard Terry Rozier.

Wednesday’s game was Boston’s sixth victory in their last eight contests, including a memorable win last Friday night against the vaunted Golden State Warriors. The Celtics, who took the then-unbeaten Warriors to double overtime at the Garden in December, handed Golden State its first home loss since Jan. 27, 2015. Perhaps most impressively, they did it on the second night of a back-to-back and without swingman Jae Crowder, who is just returning from an ankle injury (though not one caused by Isaiah Thomas).

Entering this season, the Celtics were expected to improve on their brief playoff run last year, but nobody could’ve seen this coming. At 46-32, the C’s have a legitimate chance to reach the 50-win plateau, which would be a 10-game improvement over 2014-15.

Throughout the entirety of his tenure in Boston, head coach Brad Stevens has gotten the most from his talent. Thomas, who was acquired at last year’s trade deadline with minimal fanfare, embodies that to a tee. His unimposing 5-foot-9 frame previously held him back, but under Stevens he’s making a run at All-NBA honors.

The NBA has historically been a talent-first league, but on a nightly basis, the Celtics are showing just how much relentless effort and a cunning game plan can close the gap.