When it comes to late-game production, tonight's battle between two of the NBA's best in that regard -- Boston and Toronto --is about as good a matchup as you’ll find.
Both teams rank among the best in the NBA, and are separated by just one game record-wise. And one of the keys to both team’s success is their ability to produce in the fourth quarter.
In fact, the Celtics and Raptors are the top two teams in the NBA when it comes to scoring in the fourth quarter.
Boston averages a league-best 29.4 points per game in the fourth, while Toronto is right on its heels with a 28.4 points per game average in the fourth.
And within those numbers you’ll find Isaiah Thomas, who is averaging 9.5 fourth-quarter points per game . . . which trails only Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook (9.7).
“He’s the best player in the NBA in the fourth quarter,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said of Thomas. “He’s proven that. Your high beams better be on when you’re going into the fourth against Thomas. He’s an example of what this league should be about. Kid drafted, what 60th? Back against the wall his whole career; now look at him. He’s one of the best players in this league, a lot like Kyle [Lowry]. Those two guys should be what our league is about. It’s not about where you’re drafted, it’s where you are now, where you propelled yourself to be. They have propelled themselves to be in the elite level of our league. Because of hard work and not looking at . . . almost living with a chip on their shoulder. That’s what has made them what they are.”
Lowry acknowledges he likes what he sees when watching Thomas play.
“He’s unbelievable,” said Lowry who ranks third in the NBA with 7.8 fourth-quarter points. “I’m a big fan of his. Watching him now a couple years, he’s growing into the confident player that he is. I think he’s averaging 9.3 in the fourth quarter? (It’s actually 9.5.) That’s big stuff. I would say the other word (besides stuff) but you have to write this. He’s just becoming such a vital player to his team. He’s been a vital player overall in what they do. You gotta find a way to stop him and slow him down.”
Lowry has left many teams feeling that way about him, especially the Celtics. In their last matchup, Lowry finished with a then-season high of 34 points, which included five of the Raptors’ last six points as they escaped with a 101-94 win.
While there’s no doubt that Thomas and Lowry lead the way when it comes to fourth-quarter play, the contributions they get from their teammates are just as vital.
Both teams are making 9.8 field goals in the fourth, which is more than any other team. And they’re doing so at a fairly high rate, with the Celtics making 47 percent of its fourth quarter shots compared to 47.6 for Toronto. Boston ranks fourth in the league in that category while the Raptors are No. 2 at 47.6.
Both teams rank high in other categories as well when you start examining their play in the fourth quarter.
As important as it may be to statistically be among the best in various categories, the bottom line to all this is winning games. And that's something both teams have done a good bit of this season, in part because of how well they were able to close out games in the fourth quarter.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Detroit Pistons in which the Celtics lead 54-50.
At the half he led all scorers with 16 points coming on 6-for-10 shooting from the field.
The former Boston College star has been a main cog in the Pistons’ offense tonight, leading them with 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting with five assists.
He was relatively quiet most of the first half, but came up with a last-second 3-pointer that sent the Pistons into the half with some momentum to cap off a 15-9 run to end the quarter.
Boston is looking for a steady No. 2 scorer to compliment Isaiah Thomas, and Brown was that guy throughout most of the first half. He finished with nine points on 4-for-5 shooting to go with three rebounds.
The former Piston looked very much at home around the rim in the first half, scoring just four points but grabbing seven rebounds in addition to dishing out two assists.
He had six points and six rebounds in the first half, but didn’t really dominate the way you would expect from the best big man in the building. Boston didn’t give him too many looks at the basket, and when they did they fouled him. He went to the line for five free throws in the half, and missed all of them.
Boston has made getting him the ball tonight a priority, and the four-time All-Star is simply not finishing off plays. Credit Detroit’s defense which has contested most of Horford’s shot attempts. That said, he has to deliver more offensively than the two points he scored while missing eight of his nine field goal attempts.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The Detroit Pistons will retire the jersey number of former UConn star Rip Hamilton tonight, an instrumental figure in the Pistons’ success in the early 2000s that included an NBA title in 2004.
Although Hamilton never played for Boston, his impact can be felt within the Celtics locker room.
Boston’s Amir Johnson spent his first four NBA seasons as a teammate of Hamilton's in Detroit.
In that time, Johnson acknowledges how many of the positive things folks associate with him come from lessons he learned from Hamilton.
“He was so relentless when he ran,” Johnson told CSNNE.com. “I remember working out with him one summer. For him to even get his shot off, he sprints full court, goes back down shooting shots, and he just kept doing this over and over and over again, full court sprinting . . . To see that as a young kid, and at his age, just working hard like that, it was great to see.”
James Young grew up in nearby Rochester Hills, Mich., so he watched Hamilton’s scoring prowess up close and personal.
And as he continued to evolve as a player, Young would see Hamilton during the summer months while attending Hamilton’s basketball camps.
“I was there every year, won MVP a few times,” Young told CSNNE.com. “He’s a great guy, a great player.”
And, like Hamilton, Young has a lanky frame for an NBA player, which was among the many reasons Young acknowledged Hamilton as being one of his first significant basketball influences as a youth.
“For sure,” Young said. “His mid-range game was crazy, great shooter. He was always consistent.”
And that consistency has paid off in the highest honor an NBA franchise can bestow upon a player.
“That’s big time,” Johnson said. “He’s a champion, great father, great baller. To have his jersey retired is an honor. To see the success he had in the league, and to see his jersey retired with the greats, it's definitely an honor. I’m glad I’ll be there to see that. Kudos to him. He’s a hard worker. Had a great career. I had my high school jersey retired, but to get your NBA jersey retired, that’s great.”
Hamilton played 14 seasons in the NBA, nine of which were with the Pistons. A career 17.1 points per game score, he averaged 18.4 with Detroit and was named an Eastern Conference All-Star three times (2006-2008).
Although he is known as one of the greatest mid-range shooters of his era, Hamilton began to expand his range over time. During the 2005-06 season, Hamilton shot 45.8 percent from 3-point range (most of them being corner 3’s), which led the NBA that season.