Al Horford

Associated Press

Back from injury, Isaiah Thomas scores 25 as Celtics top Wizards

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BOSTON (AP) Isaiah Thomas scored 25 points after missing the previous two games with a bruised right knee, leading the Boston Celtics to a 110-102 victory over the Washington Wizards in another testy matchup Monday night between two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

Avery Bradley added 20 points and nine rebounds for Boston, which moved 2 1/2 games ahead of the Wizards for second place in the East. The Celtics trail first-place Cleveland by two games.

Jae Crowder and Al Horford each scored 16 with nine boards.

Bradley Beal led Washington with 19 points, and John Wall had 16 points with eight assists.

Behind Thomas’ 12 third-quarter points, Boston pushed an 11-point halftime lead to 92-75 after three.

The Wizards trailed by 15 with just more than four minutes left, but closed to 106-100 on Kelly Oubre Jr.’s steal and breakaway dunk with 2:05 to play.

Marcus Smart had a basket and two free throws to seal it.

The bad feelings built up between the teams this season resurfaced briefly midway into the second quarter. Washington’s Brandon Jennings bumped into Terry Rozier a few times under the basket before Rozier pushed him to the floor near midcourt. Both got a technical.

In the last meeting at TD Garden in early January, Crowder and Wall had words at the end of the game. Crowder pointed his finger in Wall’s face, and Wall slapped at him.

When they met in Washington on Jan. 25, the Wizards wore what they called “funeral black” to the game before picking up the win.

The Celtics used a 16-5 run midway into the second to help them build a 58-47 halftime edge.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Wizards: F Markieff Morris (illness) returned to the starting lineup after missing the past two games. . Wall came up limping after a driving, spinning basket in the third quarter, but stayed in the game. . Washington committed a season-high 28 fouls.

Celtics: Thomas hit a 3-pointer for a club-record 45th straight game. . Boston opened a stretch of six straight at home and play only three games away from home the rest of the regular season.

REACQUAINTED

With the Celtics healthy again, coach Brad Stevens said the final weeks of the regular season give his team a chance to get stronger playing together.

“We just haven’t had a ton of time with ourselves fully healthy,” he said. “We have to make sure that we utilize this time appropriately for our team to get better. Regardless of who we’re playing against, there aren’t any secrets.”

 

Nets’ Jeremy Lin flies in, blocks Al Horford shot (VIDEO)

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You read that headline right.

Jeremy Lin‘s defense is not as bad as its reputation, but he’s not exactly known as a shot blocking machine. Yet as Boston’s Al Horford took his time to set up his shot, Lin comes flying in to send the shot into the first row.

Celtics plan to sign Ante Zizic next summer

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With the No. 23 pick in the 2016 NBA draft, the Celtics nabbed the No. 13 player on my board: Ante Zizic.

Zizic remained in Europe another year, and his stock has only risen. While rest of his draft class has collectively underwhelmed, by most accounts, he has progressed well.

“I am ready for the NBA,” Zizic told Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

Apparently, Boston agrees.

Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge, via Himmelsbach:

“July 1 just has to roll over on the calendar, and we’ll sign him,” Ainge said. “He wants to be here, and we want him here.”

Zizic will receive the (newly increased) rookie scale for the No. 23 pick in 2017.

The Celtics badly need his rebounding, but the 20-year-old might not be polished enough to handle other aspects of the NBA. At best, Zizic will offer a tradeoff in style with Al Horford and Kelly Olynyk (who will be a restricted free agent).

Long-term, I like Zizic’s potential. He plays with relentless energy, and he moves his 6-foot-11 frame well. I just wouldn’t count on him to make major contributions as a rookie, a high bar for anyone.

LeBron James, NBA community reacts to Dirk Nowitzki hitting 30,000 points scored

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Dallas Mavericks great Dirk Nowitzki joined an exclusive club on Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers. The future Hall of Famer surpassed 30,000 points scored in the NBA, a group that includes Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Karl Malone.

Social media was lit up after Dirk hit the mark — with his patented leg kick fadeaway, no less — and current and former NBAers got in on celebrating with Nowitzki. LeBron James even stopped his dinner to record a video message for the Mavericks forward.

Via Twitter:

The Mavericks even got folks from Germany to congratulate Dirk as part of a compilation video:

Others, including Steve Nash, Scottie Pippen, Greg Anthony, Goran Dragic, Al Horford, and Zaza Pachulia took to their social media accounts to pay homage to Dirk.

Real respect for one of the all-time greats.

Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas: ‘We can’t be experimenting in Game 63’

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The Celtics outscored the Clippers by 17 points when using lineups that played before last night.

But Boston also spent about 30% of the game with five-man units that had never taken the court — and got outscored by 31 in that time.

The result: A 14-point loss and a displeased Isaiah Thomas.

Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England:

“We should have won this game,” Thomas said following the loss. “We should have won last night [at Phoenix]. We can’t be experimenting in Game 63.”

When asked to elaborate, Thomas said, “You can watch film and you know what it is.”

Thomas wouldn’t say whether his “experimenting” comment was in regards to the lineups used on Monday, but it’s hard to imagine he was referring to anything else.

Two questions for Thomas:

When should Celtics coach Brad Stevens experiment?

Second-place Boston is three games behind the Cavaliers, 1.5 games ahead of the Wizards and 2.5 games ahead of the Raptors. They must fend off Washington and Toronto, but the Celtics are looking relatively locked into second place.

At this point, there’s value in trying new things.

Boston struggled with a small lineup last night, but perhaps that unit has untapped potential that could help in the playoffs. The Celtics got blitzed with little-used Jordan Mickey and James Young on the court, but the Spurs get lavished with praise for giving their young players minutes to develop.

It’s a long regular season. This strikes me as the right time to experiment.

What else was Stevens supposed to do?

Al Horford and Jonas Jerebko were both out against L.A. That almost necessitated strange lineups.

I understand Thomas’ frustration. He’s a competitor, and his team just lost a game he wanted to win. Maybe Boston could have done more to win it, but there was nothing particularly important about this one, which was actually game 64.

In the big picture, Thomas’ complaints seem misguided.