Celtics notebook: Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle sings praises of go-go guy Isaiah Thomas

February 14, 2017 GMT

DALLAS — Isaiah Thomas’ run to his second All-Star appearance is drawing a lot of raves from opposing coaches along the way.

The Dallas Mavericks’ Rick Carlisle, like the rest of his peers, sees an upper-tier challenge for his defense whenever the Celtics point guard has the ball.

“He was a guy that scored a lot in Sacramento and Phoenix. I don’t know the exact details of why those teams chose to move him on, but you have to believe it had something to do with his size,” Carlisle said last night ahead of an encounter with Thomas and the C’s. “The Celtics saw the brilliance in his game. He’s an absolute menace to try and guard. His speed, quickness, ability to rise up, shooting range, ability to draw fouls and sell fouls.

“One of the stats we look at is last five wins and last five losses, and last five wins he’s averaged 35 and last five losses he’s averaged 32, so there’s not a lot of bargains there.”

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Crowder returns

Jae Crowder’s appreciation for the little things expanded during his two-game absence.

“I talked to them about everything,” Crowder said of staying in touch with his teammates while tending to a family medical issue in Dallas. “I asked some silly stuff, like why did Jonas (Jerebko) go back into the game in the fourth quarter without his mask. I notice stuff like that, just joking around with the guys. If I had a question about basketball I asked that.”

Jerebko has worn a protective plastic mask since breaking his nose Feb. 5 at home against the Los Angeles Clippers. And the last game Crowder was part of, a trip-beginning loss to the Kings in Sacramento, is generally seen as the disaster that launched the team toward road wins against the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz.

Crowder’s just happy he could tend to family business with a little peace of mind.

“It feels great. I know it’s been two games, but it feels like two weeks,” he said. “They took care of business while I was gone and that’s good. But it’s good to be back.”

The C’s told Crowder to take as much time as he needed.

“It makes my job a little easier, knowing I could step away for a family issue,” he said. “That’s what comes first in my life, and basketball is second. It feels good that it was OK with the higher-ups to let me take it off.”

Asked if the unidentified family issue was resolved, Crowder said, “Yeah, I wouldn’t be here playing today if it wasn’t. Everything is under control.”

Help off bench

Crowder has been impressed by team’s ability to win big games without two starters — himself and the injured Avery Bradley (Achilles tendon). Gerald Green, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown and most recently James Young have all flourished stepping into larger crunch-time roles.

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“We have a lot of guys who can contribute. Coach put them in position to help our team,” Crowder said. “They did exactly what they were supposed to do. The bench came in with a lot of good energy in both games. We did what we were supposed to do, what we can control as a team, and let the rest take care of itself. When you do that you have a good chance of winning the game.

“Two big wins. Going into Portland in a hostile environment on a back-to-back was great. And the way we came out from the jump against Utah was great, against those guys. Got them down early and we stayed on them. I feel like we had a good two games, especially after we laid an egg in Sacramento in that first game.”

Brown unavailable

Brown strained his right hip Saturday night in Salt Lake City.

“I got the impression that he’s out through the All-Star break,” coach Brad Stevens said. “I don’t have any sense (of when he’ll be back). Obviously he strained his hip flexor. I was told he wouldn’t play in his next three games by our training staff and then we’ll go from there. .?.?. I think if we played four more games on the trip it’d be a little bit different than flying back tomorrow.”

The rookie, however, said he was “day-to-day,” a self-prognosis that wasn’t exactly correct.

“Just go on how I feel. It feels a lot better than (Sunday),” Brown said. “I think I’ll be fine in maybe a few days or so. I’m rehabbing like crazy now just trying to get back. But at the same time I don’t want to force it. I want to take my time as well so I say a few days because I know my body heals fast, but we’ll see.”