Gigi Datome is the new Gino Time.
The newly acquired Italian entered the game with 3:46 left in a 115-94 blowout victory against the Knicks, but it was his former Pistons teammate Jonas Jerebko who started the Celtics‘ dance party. The 27-year-old Swede scored 20 points for the first time in almost a year, draining four of the C’s 14 3-pointers on the night while adding five rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench.
Additionally, Evan Turner recorded the first triple-double of his career (10 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists). Isaiah Thomas added 19 points and seven assists during his first Boston appearance in a Celtics uniform. Jae Crowder (18 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists), Marcus Smart (16 points, 4 assists) and Avery Bradley (12 points) also reached double figures.
The Celtics improved to 22-33 with their second straight win, keeping pace with a crowded Eastern Conference field vying for the eighth seed. For a complete box score, click here.
ISAIAH THOMAS IS THE CELTICS’ BEST PLAYER
We’re three games into the Isaiah Thomas era in Boston, and it’s already apparent he’s the best player on this Celtics roster. Two minutes into his Garden debut, he buried his first shot attempt as a member of the C’s in their home building. It was a 3-pointer that gave the Celtics a 21-19 lead. A minute later, he connected on his second attempt — a driving layup. And that’s Thomas. No Celtics guard attempts as many shots at the rim (3.2 per game), and no Celtics player attempts as many free throws (4.7 per game). Likewise, he leads the C’s in both 3-point attempts (4.6 per game) and 3-point percentage (39.2). He is no Paul Pierce, but Thomas is the C’s most dynamic scorer since their former captain.
CELTICS STILL CAN’T PLAY DEFENSE
The C’s defense isn’t so much mean as it is the median. They rank 15th in defensive rating this season, allowing 103.3 points per 100 possessions. And they’ve been worse this calendar year, ranking 22nd (104.4 points per 100 possessions) since New Year’s Day. The Knicks took advantage early, shooting 52.4 percent and grabbing a 25-23 first-quarter lead. Six Knicks attempted shots in the frame, and six Knicks shot 50 percent or better — led by Tim Hardaway Jr.’s eight points on 4-of-5 shooting. It could’ve been worse, too, had New York not missed all six of their 3-point attempts and two of their three free throws in the opening 12 minutes. The C’s cracked down on defense in the second half, putting together a 20-0 run that spanned 5:40 from late in the third quarter to early in the fourth and put a close game out of reach. Still, they were facing the NBA’s worst team.
CENTERS OF INATTENTION
Since Kevin Garnett‘s departure, the Celtics have long made centers with any semblance of skill look like Wilt Chamberlain, but sans Jared Sullinger their paper-thin frontcourt is even turning ordinary bigs into extraordinary talents. Knicks center Jason Smith had his double-double early in the third quarter and even went on triple-double watch for a bit. Entering Wednesday, Smith had made 386 appearances over seven NBA seasons and collected 12 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in a game exactly once. He had those numbers with a quarter still to play agains the C’s.
HIS NAME IS JONAS
With Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk nursing injuries, suddenly the newly acquired Jerebko has been thrust into the C’s rotation, and he seized the moment. In a span of 57 seconds, Jerebko scored seven points to help the C’s keep pace with the Knicks midway through the second quarter, and it was his buzzer-beating 3-pointer that put the Celtics up 80-72 entering the final frame. As a second-round pick in 2009, the 6-foot-10 Swede started 73 games for the Pistons, averaging 9.3 points and six rebounds during a promising rookie season. Since then, though, injuries have played a role in him not living up to that promise, but perhaps Brad Stevens can help him recapture it.
E.T. PHONE HOME
It took 202 games, but Turner finally dialed in his first career triple-double. Signed through next season at an average annual value of less than $4 million, Turner continues to pay dividends as a late-summer signing. As Stevens admitted, “I couldn’t take him off the floor,” playing his versatile wing 18 straight minutes during their second-half run.