BOSTON (CBS) -- Isaiah Thomas has made it clear he wants to be the best little man to ever play the game. He's made his case with an astonishing scoring prowess at just 5-foot-9.
The shortest active player in the NBA did it all in Boston's 112-107 win over the Bucks on Thursday night, wreaking havoc against the longest team in the league. Thomas led the way for the Celtics, lighting up the scoreboard with 27 points on 10-of-21 shooting. But it was an incredible no-look pass late in the game that sealed the victory, a highlight that could easily go down as the dish of the season.
Thomas drove to the hoop with Boston up 106-102 with less than a minute to go, something he had been doing with ease all game. The Milwaukee defense collapsed on him, but when Thomas went up to the basket he didn't kiss it off the glass, instead throwing a no-look pass behind his head to Jae Crowder in the corner. The C's forward calmly drained the triple to put Boston up by seven with 50 seconds left. After nearly letting an 18-point advantage slip away, the Thomas-to-Crowder connection sealed Boston's ninth straight home win.
"We locked eyes right before the defender came over and I didn't know if he was going to find a way to get it to me, but he saw me for sure before the defender came over," Crowder said after the win. "It was a hell of a pass by him."
Thomas wasn't sure if his dish would make it to Crowder, because he couldn't see his teammate when he delivered the dime.
"I had seen him before I threw it, but when I threw it I couldn't see him no more, so I'm glad he stayed in that corner and made me look good," he joked.
Thomas finished with seven assists Thursday night, giving him 45 in Boston's last five games. His final and finest dime of the evening was the product of attacking the basket, which Milwaukee -- even with an average height of 6-foot-8 -- struggled to defend throughout the evening. Seven of Thomas' baskets came from inside the paint, including back-to-back floaters midway through the final frame to give the C's a seven point advantage.
Brad Stevens has seen a lot of great performances by Thomas over the last year, but his late-game unpredictability and playmaking against such big opposition on Thursday night caught his attention.
"I thought it was the best that he's played – or one of the best games he's played – against that kind of length, in that moment," said the C's head coach. "They were blitzing and they were trying to keep a bunch of long bodies on him. They switched some and he just made the right play, whether it was a pull-up, whether it was a drive, whether it was the right pass at the right time, I just thought he did a really good job of that."
Thomas said keeping opponents guessing has been a big focus for him this season.
"I'm just trying to be unpredictable out there," Thomas said after the game. "Teams are really trying to slow me down and put different guys on me and keep me seeing two guys at once when I come off pick-and-rolls, so I'm just trying to give them something different each and every time down."
Thomas said the game is slowing down for him, which is a scary thought for opposing defenses trying to slow the pint-sized offensive machine. He's putting up career numbers across the board this season, and he points to his improved passing for his better overall game.
"I think I'm just a better decision maker; I'm not just trying to score every time," he said. "That's something I've done my whole life, where scoring has been easy for me, but now it's just trying to pick and choose my spots, knowing when to be aggressive for myself and when to get other guys going.
"I think that's my next step is becoming a more complete basketball player and being more unpredictable, going out there and trying to make the right play each and every time," Thomas added.
Thomas is well on his way to being a more complete player, and his all-around effort Thursday night led to another Celtics win. Whether he does it with his scoring or his passing, getting a W is all that matters in the end.
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