Hot Celtics, Thomas take on Hornets

BOSTON — Isaiah Thomas spent part of his day Friday visiting one of his favorite football teams, the Seattle Seahawks, during their walk-through in preparation for their NFL playoff loss in Atlanta.

Saturday night, Thomas was on the field pregame in Foxborough, Mass., wearing his autographed Tom Brady jersey and trying to fire up his other favorite team, the New England Patriots. Celtics coach Brad Stevens also at the game.

In between, Thomas found time for another dynamic fourth-quarter performance, this one capped by the winning basket with 2.4 seconds left that enabled the Boston Celtics to dispose of the Atlanta Hawks.

Monday night, Thomas looks to continue his rather incredible run when he leads his Celtics into a home game against the struggling Charlotte Hornets.

Thomas, who leads all NBA players in fourth-quarter scoring, has averaged 31.3 points per game in the 15 games since returning from injury. The Celtics (25-15 and winners of six straight at home) are 12-3 in those 15 games.

Friday night, he got into a war of words with Atlanta counterpart Dennis Schroder, who accused Thomas after the game of saying things about his mother.

On Sunday, Thomas, who is averaging 28.2 points per game for the season, denied the claim, saying, “I don’t talk about nobody’s moms, I don’t cuss out nobody’s moms, and I don’t talk about nobody’s family, so whatever he said, that’s a 100 percent lie and he knows that.

“I always say, ‘Keep it hoop.’ When it comes to basketball, I talk about basketball. And I’m gonna trash talk, and I’m gonna compete, and I’m gonna do whatever I can to help my team win the game, but I don’t bring parents in, I don’t bring family.

“I don’t even know his mom to curse at her like he said I did, whatever he’s lying about. From this point forward I don’t even want to talk about Dennis Schroder because he’s not even on the level I’m trying to be on, and I’m not even focused on him no more.”

Avery Bradley, who has missed four games with a sore Achilles, returned to practice Sunday for Boston, and he is listed as questionable for Monday’s game. But Kelly Olynyk rolled his right ankle, tripping over an assistant coach’s young son in a shooting drill, and missed practice.

The Hornets are closing out a four-game road trip — all losses — and have lost five in a row away from home. The losing streak has dropped them to 20-20 on the season, 0-2 against the Celtics. They are just 12-17 after an 8-3 start.

Coach Steve Clifford is disappointed with the way his team is playing defense.

“We have enough (defense),” he said. “We’ve proven that in stretches. We need consistency.

“… Our inability to contain penetration is killing us.”

That may well work to Thomas’ advantage, who loves to drive and either continue to the basket or put the ball up, often drawing fouls. He has gone 119 for 127 from the foul line in the 15-game stretch, with one game of 17 for 17 and also two straight of hitting all 13.

Charlotte will again be without swingman Jeremy Lamb, who will miss his second straight game with an inflamed metatarsal.

Bradley had 31 points and 11 rebounds the first time the teams met. Charlotte’s Kemba Walker had 29 points in that contest, but it was not enough for his team in that game. In the rematch in Boston, Thomas scored 26 points and Walker wasn’t with the Hornets because of personal reasons.

That was the night Thomas returned from missing four games with his groin strain. It ended a three-game Boston losing streak.

“Isaiah Thomas was the biggest part of it,” Clifford said that night. “Frankly, again, the one thing we have to do, we have to make our layups and we have to make our open shots. Our game is a skill game.”