He may be one of the NBA’s Little Guys but Isaiah Thomas has the Boston Celtics thinking big.
Not just about usurping the Toronto Raptors as the number two team in the Eastern Conference but giving chase, improbably, to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
After five straight wins – including a statement 109-104 decision over the Raps on Thursday – the Cs can send coach Brad Stevens to the NBA All Star Game by defeating the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday and over take their old rivals for the record of most victories by any NBA franchise.
Remember when Celtics-Lakers used to be the hottest of battles? Not any more. While LA’s second side is freefalling with 8 of their last 32 resulting in reverses, Boston has moved to within 2.5 games of the Cavs with 12 wins out of 16.
Much of the credit needs to go to Thomas, averaging 10.5 points in fourth quarters and 29.4 overall (2nd behind Russell Westbrook) to become Boston’s latest Mr. Clutch. But the addition of Al Horford, scoring 15.3 per in a quiet but effective contribution, has elevated their psyche to the point where they could profit if Cleveland continues to misfire.
They’re still probably one impact signing away from bypassing the Cavs to make the NBA Finals – available at 13.00 - but they’re still solid value at 1.95 to hold off Toronto for the Atlantic Division.
And with a nice incentive to make it six on the bounce, look at the Celtics at -10.5 over the woeful Lakers to keep on rolling.
Best bet: Go over 218.5 total points in Boston-Los Angeles
Toronto remain 9.00 second-favourites behind Cleveland in the East but there’s a sense their potential has hit a ceiling. Just two wins out of nine are not the stuff contenders with all of those nine losses coming when over 100 points have been conceded.
Relief is scheduled for Sunday when the Brooklyn Nets, losers of seven successive games, host the Raps who beat them by ten and 19 points in two meetings last month.
But unless Toronto is active in the trade market, their defence may continue to be the Achilles heel that hobbles their pursuit of a deep playoff run.