By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- At this point, we should just tell you when Isaiah Thomas doesn't go off in the fourth quarter.
The Celtics guard did it again Monday night, scoring 17 of his 35 points in the final frame of Boston's 108-98 win over the Charlotte Hornets. He had 13 straight for Boston at one point in the fourth quarter, putting the C's up 93-83 with a triple with 7:31 left. And when the Hornets had things within four points, Thomas danced around Charlotte center Cody Zeller and drained a long two over the seven-footer to put Boston ahead 102-96 with 2:21 left. He iced it with a 20-foot pull up jumper with 33 seconds left, earning Boston to their ninth win in their last 11 games.
It's the eighth time this season that Thomas has scored 15 or more points in the fourth quarter. He is now averaging 10.1 points over the game's final 12 minutes, which is more than 11 of his Celtics teammates average over an entire contest. His fourth quarter outbursts would be silly if they weren't so impressive.
While some players shy away from having the ball in the fourth quarter, it's something Thomas covets.
"I've always wanted that moment," Thomas told reporters after the win. "Growing up, always seeing the best players take over in those moments, whether it be Kobe [Bryant], Allen Iverson, [Michael] Jordan, and they just treated it like it was just another possession, another game. That's how I feel.
"When I'm out there, I just want to make plays and be aggressive. And, like I said, I want that moment," he continued. "A lot of guys don't want to take the big shots, they're scared to try to make a big play because they might turn it over or miss the shot. I work too hard not to take advantage of those moments."
Thomas hit 14 of his 25 shots against the Hornets, including seven of his career-high seven threes. He has now scored 20 or more points in 25 straight games.
But scoring 20 points is usually child's play for the 5-foot-9 Thomas; he's scored 20 or more points in the fourth quarter alone on three different occasions this season, more than any other player in the NBA. He is now tied with James Harden for third among the NBA's leading scorers at 28.4 points per game, all but cementing his spot on the Eastern Conference's All-Star roster.
Prior to the game, Thomas hinted on social media that he's considered changing his jersey from No. 4 to No. 11 over the offseason. The No. 4 jersey was one of the few low numbers that was available when the Celtics acquired him in 2015, with No. 11 taken up by then-teammate Evan Turner. Thomas admitted he is a bit hesitant to make the change because so many Celtics fans have invested in that No. 4, not to mention it's fitting that a player with such a scoring prowess in the fourth quarter -- earning him the nickname "The King in the Fourth" -- dons the No. 4 every night.
"You're right," Thomas said. "I've got a lot of thinking to do."
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