The stare and the smile said it all for Isaiah Thomas, who delightedly made his former team pay for trading him away just four days earlier.
Thomas scored eight of his 21 points in the last 1:37 Monday night in the Boston Celtics’ 115-110 victory over the Phoenix Suns, delivering a critical four-point play, a steal and layup, and two free throws to defuse a rally.
The Suns traded Thomas to Boston last week in a deadline-day deal.
Thomas shot 6 of 16. His message was loud and clear after he glared at the Suns’ bench following his 3-pointer, then offered a smile after his layup.
“It felt good to beat the team that traded you away,” Thomas said. “I just love the big moment. I want to be the hero.
“There’s no hard feelings between me and the Phoenix Suns. My closest friends are on that team,” he added. “It’s just me going out there and doing what it takes to win. When I get on the court, I don’t have any friends.”
Avery Bradley led the Celtics with 23 points and Boston made a season-high 14 3-pointers, 10 in the first half as they ran out to a 19-point league against the struggling Suns. But Phoenix cut the lead to one on a 3 from Eric Bledsoe with 2:33 remaining.
“We got back in the game. They were getting a lot of the 50-50 balls but at the same time we still laid it on the line and came back,” Bledsoe said. “Unfortunately they made some big plays and we didn’t.”
Bledsoe had 21 points and 10 assists in the Suns’ eighth loss in the past nine games. Brandon Knight, acquired from Milwaukee in another Suns deal last Thursday, had 20 in his first start for his new team.
“It’s not perfect, don’t expect it to be but it felt pretty good,” Knight said of his home debut.
Thomas’ 3-pointer and free throw raised Boston’s lead to five. His layup with 40 seconds gave the Celtics a 107-100 lead.
Thomas entered the game with five minutes to go in the first quarter to cheers from the crowd. He scored 10 points in a second quarter that saw the Celtics score 41.
The Celtics tied a season high for points in a first half with 67, but didn’t shoot as well in the second half. Brandon Bass chipped in 18 points.
“We needed it all,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.
The Suns have free-fallen out of the eighth playoff seed in the West with five straight defeats.
The Celtics led by as many as 10 points in the first quarter, with Bradley scoring 14. Gerald Wallace, Jae Crowder, Thomas and James Young hit 3s in the second to give Boston a 55-37 lead.
Phoenix rallied in the third quarter after Evan Turner’s dunk gave the Celtics a 75-55 lead, going on a 16-2 run to cut the deficit to six. But Boston responded and took an 89-79 lead into the fourth quarter.
Celtics: Stevens, on Thomas having left the Suns so recently: “These guys move on pretty quickly, they have to, they’re pros. I don’t see it from the negative impact.” …. A fan near courtside yelled a question to Thomas during a break in the action, asking him how the weather is in Boston. “It’s cold,” Thomas said, looking into the seats while shaking his head.
Suns: Monday night’s fan promotion was Star Wars Night, the fourth time the Suns have paid tribute to the classic film series since 2010. Dozens of people came to the game dressed as characters from the movies and were on the court for lineup introductions. … The Suns released a video to fans teasing the debut of uniforms with “ash and ember” colors. The uniforms will be unveiled Wednesday.
G Gerald Green did not play despite not being injured. Green has played in all but one game this season and has been a contributor on offense, but missed his chance to go in during the first half when he had to return to the locker room.
Celtics: Host New York on Wednesday.
Suns: At Denver on Wednesday.