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Isaiah Thomas a one-man show with 52 points — 29 in fourth — for Celtics

Isaiah Thomas extended his repertoire with a career-high 52 points, and a franchise-record 29 points in the fourth quarter. Elise Amendola/Associated Press

About a half-hour after the Celtics’ 117-114 win over the Heat on Friday, Miami center Hassan Whiteside walked slowly down a hallway in the bowels of TD Garden and passed the Celtics’ locker room just as Isaiah Thomas was walking out with his two children.

Whiteside was hit in the right eye during the game, and now he was squinting and his eye was red. Thomas’s 4-year-old son, Jaiden, noticed Whiteside’s eye.

“What happened to you?” he asked.

Whiteside smiled.

“Your dad killed us out there,” he said. “That’s what happened.”

And that is exactly what happened. Thomas added his finest work to an ever-growing portfolio, erupting for a career-high 52 points, 29 of which came during a daring and enchanting fourth quarter. The All-Star made 15 of 26 shots, 9 of 13 3-pointers, and all 13 of his free throws.


“It’s remarkable,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “I mean, I don’t know what else to say.”

Thomas’s scoring total is the fourth highest in franchise history, and he becomes the first Celtic to reach the 50-point mark since Paul Pierce scored 50 in Boston’s double-overtime loss to the Cavaliers on Feb. 15, 2006. Thomas also set a TD Garden scoring record and a franchise record for points in one quarter.

His fourth-quarter total was 2 points shy of the NBA record for that period, which Wilt Chamberlain set during his historic 100-point game in 1962.

“That fourth quarter, it just felt like I was out there by myself,” Thomas said, “like I was in the gym working on my game and throwing up everything and it was just going in. It was a special feeling.”

After the Heat took an 89-84 fourth-quarter lead, Thomas drained five 3-pointers over a stretch of just 3 minutes, 30 seconds, the last one giving the Celtics a 101-93 advantage.


Thomas’s mother, Tina Baldtrip, is visiting from Tacoma, Wash., this week, and Thomas could see her in the stands pleading for him to go for 50. He looked back at her to indicate he was trying, as only a son can. Celtics forward Jae Crowder was thinking even bigger, imploring Thomas to shoot for 60.

“I caught myself a few times just watching the show,” Crowder said.

Amid the frenzy, though, the Celtics had to find a way to win the game against the lowly Heat.

Miami charged back and tied the score at 104 on a Wayne Ellington layup. But that is where their hopes were dashed, because the Celtics had Thomas and the Heat did not.

The All-Star hit a layup and a pair of foul shots to put the Celtics back in front, and then with 37.2 seconds left he provided the dagger, drilling his sixth 3-pointer of the quarter, a deep offering from the left arc, making it 111-106. He later added two free throws to ice the game, and he was serenaded by chants of “MVP” when he did.

“You dream of that as a kid,” Thomas said of the chants. “To have it happen playing in the Garden for the Celtics, it doesn’t get any bigger than that.”

With the Celtics leading by 5 points in the final seconds, Stevens removed Thomas from the game for a well-deserved standing ovation. When Thomas reached the bench, Stevens jokingly told him he was taking him out because he’d been beaten on defense on a pair of backdoor cuts. Then he patted him on the stomach and congratulated him.


After Thomas completed a television interview, Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount walked onto the court and shook his hand. Then Thomas walked toward the tunnel to the locker room, where his wife Kayla, mother, and two sons were waiting.

He held back a sheepish grin as he kissed his sons on the top of their heads and continued on to the locker room, where the celebration continued. The Celtics mobbed Thomas and dumped a bucket of ice on his head, even catching young Jaiden, who wrapped himself in a team towel. Team staff members brought Thomas score sheets from the game to sign as keepsakes, and Thomas kept a few for himself, too.

He was a bit embarrassed to look down and see that he’d poured in all of those points without registering an assist. But some words from the team’s elder statesman, Al Horford washed that feeling away.

“You scored 50,” Horford told him. “Forget the assists.”

In the historic 29-point fourth quarter, Thomas made 9 of 13 shots, 6 of 8 3-pointers and all five of his free throws. No other Celtic scored more than 2 points in the period.

Thomas also tied a franchise record with his nine 3-pointers. Larry Bird, who scored 60 points in one game and 53 in another, and Kevin McHale, who had a 56-point night, are the only players in this franchise’s storied history ever to score more points than Isaiah Thomas did on Friday night.


“It doesn’t seem real,” Thomas said.

Highest scoring games in Celtics’ history

Larry BirdAtlantaMarch 12, 198560
Kevin McHaleDetroitMarch 3, 198556
Larry BirdIndianaMarch 30, 198353
Isaiah ThomasMiamiDec. 30, 201652
Sam JonesDetroitNov. 29, 196551
Larry BirdDallasMarch 10, 198650
Larry BirdAtlantaNov. 10, 198950
Paul PierceClevelandFeb. 15, 200650

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.