Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas has a fresh batch of motivation after missing out on a starting spot with the Eastern Conference All-Star team when he lost a tiebreaker to the Toronto Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan.
Irving dominated the fan voting, which accounted for 50 percent of a player’s total, and cemented his spot by winning the player vote. Thomas won the media vote and finished tied with DeRozan in the overall point tally. The fan vote was the tiebreaker, and DeRozan finished third at 796,112 votes, while Thomas was fourth at 755,102 votes. (Dwyane Wade was second.)
Here's how the East backcourt voting looked with IT/DeRozan tying for 2nd and DeRozan winning on tie-breaker by 41,010 votes. pic.twitter.com/WF5in8atk7— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) January 20, 2017
On the eve of the announcement, Thomas wasn’t bashful when asked if he liked his chances to earn a starting role. “I should be a starter,” Thomas said. “But I can’t control that.”
Thomas leads the East in scoring and is fourth in the NBA, averaging 28.7 points per game. Thirteen times this season, he has scored at least 30 points. Not only is he leading the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring, but his average of 10.1 points per game in that frame is the best mark in the NBA over the past two decades.
Thomas has scored 20 points or more in 37 of the 38 games he has played this season, including 26 straight. That’s the longest streak by a Celtics player since Kevin McHale had a 30-gamer spanning the 1985-86 and 1986-87 seasons, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
Thomas can take some solace in the fact that Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook got passed over in the Western Conference. The electrifying guard is averaging a triple-double: 30.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 10.4 assists. That said, Thomas didn’t just miss out on a starter spot but he won’t even be the most notable snub.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens was asked before Wednesday’s loss to the New York Knicks if Thomas deserved to be an All-Star starter, and Stevens immediately replied, “Sure.” Pressed on why, Stevens said simply, “Because he’s had a hell of a year.”
Since Thomas returned from a groin injury in mid-December, the Celtics have won 13 of 17 games while emerging from the logjam in the East beneath the Cavaliers and Raptors. The Celtics haven’t been as crisp as expected on defense this season, but Thomas has been so spectacular offensively, especially in the fourth quarter, that they routinely have found a way to emerge late in games.
The 5-foot-9 Thomas often finds motivation in even the smallest slight. He seems certain to earn his second consecutive All-Star selection when reserves are announced, but likely will take out any frustrations on missing a starting gig over the next week.
While the fan vote worked against Thomas, his strong placement in the media and player voting reflects positively on the way his season has been viewed by those closest to the sport. Thomas often has noted that the only respect he desires is that of his peers, and players voted him second to Irving in a conference overflowing with guard talent.