BOSTON — If you walked up and down the media rows at TD Garden on Wednesday as the Detroit Pistons rallied against the Boston Celtics (the Celtics eventually pulled away with a 118-108 victory), you would have noticed a lot of beat writers largely ignoring the contest they were expected to write about in favor of a different game: The Denver Nuggets and the Sacramento Kings.
Nuggets/Kings was a relatively unimportant Western Conference showdown by Celtics standards, save for one important distinction: Former Celtics star Isaiah Thomas made his 2018-19 debut as a member of the Nuggets, returning from the hip surgery that sidelined him for 11 months (and limited him for considerably more).
“I saw that (Thomas is expected to return),” Brad Stevens said prior to the game. “To me, right after the game, when I go home, the DVR is set. That’s what I’ll be doing after the game. I can’t wait to watch that game.”
Stevens is in for an entertaining game whenever he gets around to it — certainly a more entertaining contest than the one his team claimed over the Detroit Pistons, which was lengthened unnecessarily by fouls and video reviews. The Nuggets eventually pulled out a 120-118 victory on Nikola Jokic’s tip in with 0.8 seconds remaining, but not before Thomas dropped in eight points on 3-for-6 shooting in 13 minutes of action, to go with two assists.
Thomas’ first bucket came in the third quarter — a spot up triple from above the break. His second one will look plenty familiar to Celtics fans: Thomas rocked Marvin Bagley to sleep at the top of the key, then buried a triple over the contest.
Celtics fans have remained very supportive of Thomas after he was dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2017 offseason in exchange for Kyrie Irving, as he embarked on a difficult road back to the league. Thomas told Denver media prior to Wednesday’s game that he’s close to 100 percent, even though he isn’t certain if he will ever fully get there. But 90 percent of 2016-17 Isaiah Thomas would be a special player of Denver’s bench as the second-seed Nuggets look to make a deep playoff push.
Al Horford, one of the Celtics who played with Thomas during his All-NBA second-team season, said he was excited to see his former teammate back on the court.
“Man, just happy,” Horford said. “Just happy for IT. I hope he does really well. Just so much respect for him and his will, just his will. So I hope he does great.”