The NBA on Friday rescinded the second technical foul called on Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas during the team’s overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers last Sunday.
With 5:03 left in the fourth quarter and the Celtics trailing, 91-87, Thomas was called for an offensive foul. Disagreeing with the call, he slammed the ball down and caught it. Thomas was given a technical, and afterward he acknowledged he deserved it. But the reason for the second technical, which resulted in an automatic ejection, was unclear. Thomas has maintained he said nothing to warrant a technical foul. Celtics coach Brad Stevens said an official told him it was because Thomas had rolled the ball to a referee.
“It should have got rescinded,” Thomas said. “I’m glad they did that, because I didn’t say anything to deserve the technical.”
Thomas was in the midst of a strong Celtics debut, tallying 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. The Celtics charged back against the Lakers without Thomas, as an Avery Bradley 3-pointer at the buzzer sent the game to overtime. But Boston fell, 118-111.
The NBA fines players $2,000 for each of their first five technical fouls during a season.
“If I didn’t get the technical, I feel like we probably would have won,” Thomas said. “But I’m glad I got my money back.”
Celtics forward Jae Crowder, who stands just 6 feet 6 inches, has frequently been called upon to play power forward. It is always a challenge, but it is also something the physical veteran relishes.
In the Celtics’ 106-98 win over the Hornets on Friday night, Crowder found himself matched up against Charlotte’s massive center, the 6-10, 289-pound Al Jefferson.
“I just wanted to make it tough for him,” Crowder said, “and fight him as much as possible.”
Jefferson finished with 14 points, 3 below his season average. Crowder defended him for most of the defining fourth quarter, when Jefferson missed both of his field goal attempts and did not have a rebound.
“Jae did a great job on Al Jefferson,” Stevens said. “He did as good as job as anyone can.”
Crowder said Jefferson likes to feel where his defender is, so a key to defending him is staying on the move.
“Just make it tough early,” Crowd
er said, “and don’t get too deep in the post.”
To the letter
The Celtics’ roster has been in constant flux this season, as 22 players have suited up over the past four months. Stevens hasn’t needed nametags, but it also hasn’t always been easy.
During timeouts, when he draws up plays on a dry-erase board, he typically writes down a player’s initials rather than his position number.
“We’re 22 people in,” Stevens said. “And these initials, I mean, I’ve got to clear my mind to make sure I get the initials right on the board.”
Forward Jared Sullinger’s season-ending foot injury and forward Kelly Olynyk’s lingering ankle sprain have forced the Celtics to go to a smaller, quicker and better shooting lineup. It has worked so far, with Thomas serving as the facilitator and the Celtics spreading the floor quite well. And it helps that shots have been going in.
Hornets coach Steve Clifford has been impressed by the Celtics’ approach.
“The basic tenet of offense is your spacing, and your shooting is your spacing” Clifford said. “So they’re playing five guys who can shoot threes and spreading out your defense.”
Celtics forward Tyler Zeller said it can be difficult to stay in touch with his brother, Hornets forward Cody Zeller, during the season. But the two talk on the phone about once a week and prefer to keep the conversations unrelated to basketball. The last time their teams met, Jan. 5, Cody made all eight of his field goal attempts and scored 20 points in a Hornets victory. On Friday night, the brothers were matched up against each other during a few early possessions. Cody outscored Tyler, 11-7, but this time Tyler got the win, his first in seven regular-season games against Cody. The brothers had dinner together in Boston on Thursday night. So who paid the bill? “We split it,” Tyler said . . . Stevens said that Olynyk is expected to practice on Saturday. He said Olynyk would be reevaluated before Sunday’s game against Golden State, but the forward’s status is questionable . . . NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who is in town for the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, attended Friday night’s game. He joined CSN broadcasters Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn on commentary for a stretch.
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.