The chants, as they have for quite some time now, rang down from the TD Garden stands Monday night.
"MVP! MVP! MVP!"
They were directed at Isaiah Thomas, who had once again put the team on his back in the fourth quarter, scoring 17 of his 35 points as the Celtics beat the Hornets, 108-98.
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For Thomas, it wasjust another game. He leads the NBA in fourth quarter scoring, averaging 10.1 points per game. He's scored 20 or more in the fourth quarter three times this season (and just missed his fourth on Monday) while no other player has done it more than once.
He's averaging 28.4 points per game this season and has scored at least 20 points in 25 straight games, the most in a row since Kevin McHale did it 30 straight times over two seasons back in 1985-86 and 1986-87.
Per CSNNE, since returning from a groin injury on Dec. 16, Thomas is averaging an NBA-high 31.6 points per game while shooting 50.2 percent from the field including 43.2 percent from 3-point range. He’s also dishing out 6.1 assists per game.
The MVP award still may be a bit of a reach, but the fact that Thomas can even be considered at this stage of the season is pretty special. It also means that he'll be a lock for the All-Star Game.
The question now, though, is - should he start?
Fan voting ended at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, but votes still need to be cast by NBA players and media. You can bet that will hurt the chances of Dwyane Wade, who has no business starting in this game despite finishing with plenty of votes for the Eastern Conference backcourt players.
That could open up a spot, and there are many who believe the Celtics' leader deserves it.
Of course, that includes his teammates.
“Very deserving [to start in the All Star Game],’ Jae Crowder said of Thomas. “I think there’s not another player in this league besides Kyrie [Irving] playing at the level he’s at. I think he’s very deserving to be starting in the All-Star Game.”
Hornets point guard Kemba Walker said after Monday’s game that Thomas is “playing better than anyone in our league”.
It remains to be seen who ultimately is named a starter, so which players are fighting with Thomas for the spots? There is some stiff competition.
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
Irving runs the point on the Eastern Conference-leading Cavaliers, and averages 23.6 points, 5.6 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game. He also won the fan voting for Eastern Conference backcourt by a landslide.
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
Lowry is a bull and is averaging career-highs in points per game (22.2) and rebounds per game (5.0). His 7.2 assists per game are a shade below his career-high of 7.4 in 2013-14. His 48 percent shooting from the field and 44.4 percent from 3-point range are also career-highs. It’s hard to argue against him.
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
DeRozan is having a special year for the Raptors after re-signing with them over the offseason. The shooting guard is averaging 28.1 points per game, over 4.5 points higher than his previous career high. What’s impressive is he does the majority of his scoring from inside the 3-point line.
The others: Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets), John Wall (Wizards), Dwyane Wade (Chicago Bulls)