Isaiah Thomas’ (somewhat) return to TD Garden came without a win as the Boston Celtics beat the Cavaliers 102-88, giving the Celtics their league leading 31st win of the season.
Before the game, every fans’ attention was on the return of Isaiah Thomas, who for the first time since being traded for Kyrie Irving in late August, appeared at TD Garden. Thomas reiterated that there is only love for the city of Boston and the Celtics organization.
“Love. I mean that’s all there was when I was here. I didn’t ever say anything bad about the city or organization so I expect them to just show genuine love. I’m happy to be back though, this is a special moment for me. I just wish I could play.”
Thomas got a standing ovation as the JumboTron in the building exposed him to Celtics fans during a timeout.
“…They showed their true colors like they always do and that’s all I keep saying is that this is genuine love from both sides. The fans are everything here.”
After the game, Thomas went over to give hugs to some of his former teammates (with Marcus Smart giving the longest embrace). Then came the player he was traded for: Kyrie Irving.
“Just mutual respect. We’ve always respected each other and from the day we got drafted to playing on All-Star teams the same times and things like that so it’s just mutual respect.”
The Celtics never let up and the Cavs never really made a run to get back into the game. Boston outscored Cleveland in three out of the four quarters, and started off the game by outscoring them 32-21 in that first quarter. It was their defense that fueled their momentum, holding the Cavs under 90 points for the first time this season. LeBron James also did not play as aggressive as past LeBron-Celtics matchups (19 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists tonight). He was held to under 20 points for just the sixth time this season.
“Their defense was very good. They were very in tune to what we wanted to do execution wise offensively,” said James. “We had some good looks at times, some of the looks were a little bit tougher, but they had a good defensive play and they executed very well.”
Cleveland also shot 34.8% from the field and shot the three ball at just a 25% clip. Al Horford was a big reason why the Celtics defense was locked in. Horford had a team-high nine rebounds, which helped Boston out rebound the reigning Eastern Conference Champions 52-48.
“I think we just had good energy. Guys were flying around. Really making second, third efforts. We were pretty locked in,” said Horford.
Brad Stevens was also very impressed with his team’s defense, “I thought our defense was really locked-in all night; I thought we played really purposeful. We weren’t perfect, but we tried to make them go through us to score. And we did a good job of that. Again, I think taking away the transition layups was a part of it, and that’s hard to do against these guys.”
The Celtics will go for their fifth win in a row versus the Minnesota Timberwolves at TD Garden on Friday, with tipoff set for 7:30 pm.