WALTHAM, Mass. -- The day after Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas said his behind-the-head pass "broke the Internet," a palpable buzz lingered about the ridiculous late-game dish that helped Boston top the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night at TD Garden.
Asked about the reaction he's received about the play, Thomas smiled and joked, "I mean, the Internet was broke last night. Everybody has been hitting me about the pass. So I guess it was a pretty nice pass."
Thomas admitted that if Jae Crowder didn't hit the 3-pointer in the corner that essentially sealed Thursday's victory in what had been a four-point game with less than a minute to play, then maybe the assist wouldn't have been as heralded as it was.
Both Thomas and teammates had fun reflecting on the pass -- a driving, behind-the-head pass through traffic that found Crowder alone in the corner. When it was pointed out that Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, who was seated nearby and was spotted holding up his own Thomas No. 4 jersey at his courtside seat, Thomas joked, "He couldn’t intercept that one."
The often opinionated Evan Turner offered high praise -- in his unique way -- as well.
"I guess it’s really up there," Turner said when asked to rank the dish. "I was a Jason Williams fan -- White Chocolate. If you don’t hit it off the elbow -- know what I’m saying? But last night it was crazy, from the standpoint that we’re only up by 4. It looked like Michael Carter-Williams had cut [Thomas] off a few times, and then the big man [Greg Monroe] came over, and [Thomas] literally pulled it out of his ass. That was a great pass in that situation -- us needing a shot."
Celtics coach Brad Stevens chose to simply celebrate Thomas' increasing ability to make the right basketball play in those types of situations. Thomas might be regarded as more of a scorer, but he repeatedly showed off his flashy distribution skills on Thursday and is averaging a career-best 6.8 assists per game this season.
"I just think it’s about making the right basketball read," Stevens said. "So whether that is scoring off the drive, whether that is making a hook pass like he made last night, whether that is just moving the ball and getting us into offense, it’s about making the right read at the right time. But I think within that, [Thomas] creates indecision in the defense because of all his hesitate-and-go, and the way that he plays, and the way that he can change speeds. So that’s part of the unpredictability that he can create, but then he’s just gotta make the right read. And I thought last night he did a really good job of that.
"I think he’s gotten more balanced. Like I said last night, I thought he played about as well as he’s played against that kind of length and athleticism late in the game. I mean, that’s hard when the whole team is locked into you to make plays like he made. That’s not easy to do."
Thomas, having achieved All-Star status this season and played the best basketball of his five-year career, said his next goal is elevating to All-NBA status. Stevens loves that Thomas is setting ambitious goals and believes his scoring and creating balance hammers home his maturation.
"The best players in this league, as they get older, they just make the right read every single time," Stevens said. "They never miss it, you know? And I think that very few guys are at that level, but all of those guys have great talent and great, unique ability to do something that nobody else can do. Isaiah is unique in his ability to kind of squirm through small spaces and find a way. But I just think it’s a matter of experience and continuing to put yourself in those situations and learn from the last 59 games we played and however many we have left and just keep on growing."
Thomas, who sat out of practice earlier this week with a sore left wrist, sported a massive, ice-filled wrap over his left hand following Friday's practice. He continued to downplay concern about a wrist that he's had surgery on in each of the past two offseasons and said the team is simply managing the swelling that's occurred this week after he's hit the floor hard a few times.
"It hurts. So I’m just trying, for the most part, not to think about it," Thomas said. "But, when I do fall, it does make it a little worse. I just gotta continue to get treatment, get ice on there, and, once it loosens up in the games, it feels a lot better. I try to keep a heat pack on it during games. For the most part, just gotta adjust."
That means the occasional right-handed layup, like one he produced -- and made sure teammates took notice of -- against the Bucks. The way Thomas looks at it, he's got more pressing concerns, such as playing all 82 games and giving All-NBA voters more reason to consider him.
"Ever since I got the All-Star bid, I kinda was thinking, ‘What else can I get in this season, other than making the playoffs or trying to go as far as possible?’" Thomas explained. "And that’s when it came about. That’s another goal of mine that I’m going to try to push towards and see where it takes me."
Thomas is one of only seven players in the NBA this season averaging 21-plus points and six-plus assists, joining an elite cluster that includes MVP-caliber talent such as Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Kyle Lowry, James Harden and Damian Lillard.
Plays like the pass he made on Thursday night are only making the rest of the league further take notice of his play this season.