Isaiah Thomas (from left), Al Horford and Jae Crowder battle Grizzlies center Marc Gasol for a loose ball during Tuesday’s game in Memphis. (Nelson Chenault/USA Today Sports)
The Celtics’ first truly impressive win of the season was a long time coming, but they made it a memorable one.
The C’s battled back from a 17-point deficit against a strong (and hot) Grizzlies team in Memphis and pulled out a 112-109 win in overtime behind a career-high 44 points from Isaiah Thomas.
Thomas hit 10-of-16 field goals (7-of-10 from behind the arc) and 17-of-17 free throws. He only had eight points in the first half but exploded for 29 in the second half and seven more in the extra session.
“I’m a killer,” he told CSNNE’s Kyle Draper right after the win. “I’m a killer. My team needed me to score. My team needed me to made plays. They got me open. Coach put me in position to be successful and I just took it from there.”
The win was the first for the C’s over a team with a winning percentage of at least .600 this season.
“It’s big, but it’s not just about that,” Thomas said. “It’s just about how we got the win. They were punking us in the first half and a little bit during the third quarter, and we just put our head down and said, ‘This is ours.’ And we took what we thought was ours. This might turn this season around for real.”
Al Horford also had a big game, recording 17 points and 14 rebounds, and he had a big basket late in overtime.
Thomas put the Celtics in front by a point, 107-106, when he hit two free throws with 1:08 remaining.
After Grizzlies guard Troy Daniels missed a 3-pointer, Horford posted up Martin and put the ball in off the glass for a three-point cushion with 30 seconds left.
Mike Conley, who hit some big shots late in the fourth quarter, then drove on Avery Bradley (who had five fouls) but lost his balance and came up empty. Amir Johnson grabbed the rebound, was fouled and hit the second of two from the line for a four-point lead with 14.4 seconds left.
With 7.8 seconds remaining Conley was fouled while shooting a runner with his toe on the edge of the 3-point line. He made 1-of-2 free throws.
A second later, Thomas hit two more free throws for a five-point lead. JaMychal Green finished the scoring with an uncontested layup with two seconds left.
The Celtics trailed by 14 points at the half, 45-31. The C’s then doubled their total in the third quarter, finally putting together a big run — a 14-1 spurt late in the period that got them within four points at 64-60. However, Vince Carter hit a late 3-pointer as Memphis pushed the lead back to nine by the end of the period.
The Celtics fought back, though, and had a chance to win at the end of regulation when they inbounded with nine-tenths of a second left. Kelly Olynyk, inbounding from in front of the scorer’s table past halfcourt, lobbed it into Horford under the basket and he had a chance when Tony Allen (who switched) fell down, but Horford caught the ball at his stomach while jumping up and his attempt to lay it in hit the rim. He tipped in the follow but it was after the buzzer.
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