They are nine games over .500 and currently sit in third place in the Eastern Conference. Yes, the 2015-16 Boston Celtics appear to be real.
For a team without a number one scorer, Brad Stevens has put together a lineup that leads the conference with 105 points per game and has hit the century mark in 41 of 55 games plated. The Celtics are scoring, and they are doing it more than any other team in the East.
Isaiah Thomas played in the All-Star Sunday as the lone Celtics’ representative, and his Boston team-high 21.4 points and 6.6 assists per game are the reason why. He is playing as confident as anyone in the league, and his ability to drive and either score or dish out to the perimeter, has made a major difference in the way Stevens has been able to draw up a game plan.
Thomas not only leads the team in scoring, but he is also first in the East, and fourth in the entire NBA at his position. His assist average is second best in the Conference. What’s even more impressive is that he is scoring an average of two more baskets, and six more points, than he did last year. He also has nearly doubled his assist average over the off-season.
Yes, he is scoring, and assisting, and has led his team to a 10-2 record since January 22nd, but for me, the most important stat of them all is his free-throw percentage. Last week in the win at Cleveland, he went a perfect 11 for 11 from the line. In the last game before the break, he landed 11 of 12 charity shots and scored a game-high 36 points, outscoring Chris Paul along the way.
In the past twelve games, Thomas has landed 65 of 73, and in five of those contests, he didn’t miss a charity shot.
This is a breath of fresh air compared to the Celtics’ previous point guard, Rajon Rondo, who when in Boston, avoided the foul line at all costs. In his nine seasons as a Celtic, he never averaged more than 2.2 made, nor 3.5 attempts from the line. His last season in Boston, he made just 0.5 of 1.6, for a 33% success rate. Without a number one scorer, a team can never win without a point guard getting free shots.
When Rondo had Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to dish to, he was able to get away with this style of play. When they left town and the point guard was left with Jeff Green and Brandon Bass, it was a different story, and that way of playing did not work. Enter Isaiah Thomas and his attach-the-hoop style of play, and the red-hot Boston Celtics sit in third place in the Conference in much part to Thomas’ work at the line.
Last Friday night when the ball was inbounded to Isaiah Thomas with just over 3-seconds on the game clock, he took a few dribbles to the hoop then passed the ball back to Avery Bradley who hit the game winning shot. Thomas then jumped in his teammate’s arms as if he himself had hit the shot. An unselfish player, it didn’t matter who scored the three-points, what mattered was that the Celtics picked up a win.
Thomas is doing it all for the Celtics and though he may not be a top scorer in the league, he has his team filling up the buckets better than the rest of the East. He has become a sigh of relief for Celtics fans who are enjoying a point guard that smiles, drives to the hoop, makes free throws and celebrates with teammates.
Isaiah Thomas has quickly become the face of the Celtics, and is on his way to becoming a household name in the league, but for now, fans in Boston are enjoying every minute of IT, who they have come to know as the Anti-Rondo.
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