Its been three seasons since Isaiah Thomas' historic 2016-17 season with the Boston Celtics where the two-time All-Star guard led his team to the Eastern Conference Finals, earning a spot on the All-NBA Second Team.
This will only be his second time playing at the TD Garden since being traded from the Celtics in the 2017 offseason, though this time around, it'll be much different than last season.
Last year, as a member of the Denver Nuggets, Thomas played sparingly as a role player on a deep team. He received a warm welcome from the Boston crowd and had an emotional tribute video played during a stoppage of play, but only played seven minutes scoring zero points shooting 0-for-2 from the field.
This time around will be much different. I.T. played himself into the starting point guard role for the Washington Wizards after averaging 16.3 points, 7.3 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game shooting 46.2% from the field and 40.0% from beyond the arc off the bench through the team's first three games.
As a starter Thomas hasn't seen as much success, averaging 10.0 points and 5.0 assists per game shooting 37.8% from the field and 30.8% from beyond the arc, but he's playing significant minutes and will have the chance to spoil the Celtics' league-best eight-game winning streak.
Ahead of I.T.'s return to Boston, let's take a look at three of his best moments from that legendary run in 2016-17.
Persevering through tragedy in Game 1 of playoffs
After fantastic season leading an unheralded Celtics team to the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference, Isaiah Thomas took Boston into the playoffs with hopes of a championship push.
The night before their first game of the postseason against the Chicago Bulls, Thomas received news that his 22-year-old sister, Chyna, had passed away in a car accident back in his home state of Washington. While it would have been more than understandable for the star point guard to take time away from basketball to be with his family, he elected to take the court and persevere through this tragic moment in his life.
Fighting back tears throughout the night, Thomas put together one of the most inspirational showings anyone has ever seen. In the face of adversity, I.T. went for 33 points shooting 10-for-17 from the field with six assists and six rebounds, nearly carrying the Celtics to a Game 1 victory. Chicago defeated Boston 106-102, but Thomas' heart and dedication has shown that night will be remembered by Celtics fans forever.
The King of the Fourth
In 2016-17, Isaiah Thomas averaged 5.1 points per game in the clutch, the second-best in the NBA behind Russell Westbrook. His 9.8 points per game in the fourth quarter was also second to Westbrook, who won that season's MVP award.
Thomas continuously stepped up in the fourth quarter and the clutch for the Celtics all season long but one game, in particular, solidified his nickname "The King of the Fourth."
On December 30, 2016, Thomas dropped what was then a career-high 52 points in a Celtics win over the Miami Heat in Boston. 52 points is an impressive enough feat on its own but the way I.T. carried the Celtics to victory when it matter most was something the NBA hadn't seen in years.
Boston entered the fourth quarter leading by three points behind Thomas' team-high 23 points. The King of the Fourth proceeded to drop 29 points in the fourth quarter alone, putting together one of the most jaw-dropping performances in recent memory.
His 29 points were two points shy of Wilt Chamberlain's record of 31 points in the fourth quarter and surpassed Larry Bird and Todd Day's Celtics record of 24 points for most points in the fourth quarter.
It was that moment where you really began to realize that Thomas was amidst what would become a historic season in Boston.
Career-high 53 points in the playoffs
After overcoming a 2-0 deficit in the first round against the Bulls, the Celtics won four-straight games to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
In Game 1, Thomas put together another extremely impressive performance going for 33 points and nine assists in a win over the Wizards. It was a physically taxing game, as Thomas took a shot to the mouth and lost several teeth, but continued to finish out the contest. Per Celtics.com, Thomas underwent 11 hours worth of dental procedures leading up to Game 2, but nothing was stopping I.T. from competing in these playoff games.
Toothless and all, Thomas suited up for the Celtics, dropping a career-high 53 points going 18-for-33 from the field with four assists, four rebounds and three steals in an overtime win to take a 2-0 series lead. Although I.T. wasn't feeling his best after all the dental work he had done, he felt the need to take the court as the game fell on the same day of his late sister's 23rd birthday, persevering again with another remarkable performance.
Carrying his King of the Fourth nickname, Thomas dropped 29 points combined in the fourth quarter and overtime, marking another insane outing that Celtics fans will remember forever.
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