<
>

Celtics 104, Pelicans 98: Thomas takes over in the fourth

It had been a quiet five minutes for Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas after he checked in for his first shift of the second half during Friday's tilt with the New Orleans Pelicans. He more than made up for it with the five very loud minutes that followed.

Thomas scored 15 points in little over four minutes of game time spanning into the fourth quarter, including a stretch where he made three 3-pointers over a 2:37 span early in the final frame. His offensive outburst morphed what had been a tied game into a 12-point Boston lead and the Celtics emerged with a 104-98 triumph over the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center.

Thomas, who remained in a reserve role despite the fact that Avery Bradley missed the game due to a sprained elbow, scored 14 points in the fourth quarter. He finished with 27 points on 8-of-13 shooting (4-of-6 shooting beyond the 3-point arc) with three assists over 29 minutes.

Thomas lit his own fuse with a strong drive at the basket that ended with him lofting a layup over Anthony Davis while being fouled to give Boston a three-point lead heading to the fourth quarter. Then he got hot beyond the arc and the Celtics pulled away.

Brandon Bass added 17 points and six rebounds. Evan Turner added 16 points, 6 assists, and 6 rebounds. Davis scored a game-high 29 points on 11-of-21 shooting over 42:14. He added 14 rebounds and three blocks.

Poor Zeller: The hero in Wednesday's win, Tyler Zeller had the unenviable task of trying to limit Davis. Zeller gamely tried to contest an alley-oop attempt and ended up on the wrong side of a highlight when Davis threw down a loud dunk. With a lot of help from Brandon Bass, the Celtics limited the total damage done by Davis.

#PlayoffWatch: The Celtics shimmied to within 1.5 games of the final playoff berth in the East. Charlotte and Indiana won on Friday night and they own the final two playoff spots. Miami lost a nail-biter in Washington and now sits just outside the playoff picture.

Loose balls: The Celtics employed a nine-man rotation without Bradley and everybody that saw the floor scored for Boston. ... Luigi Datome, Phil Pressey, Shavlik Randolph, and Gerald Wallace were healthy DNPs. ... Boston connected on 10 3-pointers while shooting 43.5 percent beyond the arc. ... The Celtics make things look pretty when they share the ball like THIS, with all five players touching the ball and leading to a dunk with the Pelicans scrambling on defense.

What it means: The Celtics improved to 25-35 and have now won two in a row (and five of their last seven overall); the Pelicans fall to 33-29. Boston is back in action on Sunday in Orlando before wrapping up this three-game trip by visiting Miami to close a back-to-back on Monday.