Jazz center Rudy Gobert has the longest wingspan in NBA history at 7-foot-8.5, and the tree-shaped Frenchman is currently leading the NBA in both blocks and defensive rating. Tonight, he chased 5-foot-9 Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas into the lane, creating a scenario that seems as likely to end in a blocked shot as any possible combination of shooter and defender in the NBA. But instead of getting his shit spiked, Thomas took it right to Gobert’s chest and bounced just far away enough to lay it in. It was the second time he went at Gobert and scored on him.
That was the smoothest play (save perhaps an arching fadeaway in Gordon Hayward’s grill) of a career night for Thomas. He finished with 29 points on 18 shots and a career-best 15 assists to go along with just a single turnover. Those are pretty impressive numbers for a matchup with the league’s third-best defensive team (as well as its slowest), but his scoring average over the Celtics’ past eight games actually dipped tonight. Boston has won eight of its last 10 thanks primarily to Thomas, who is averaging the fifth-most points in the NBA. His highlight reel for tonight shows off all the different ways he can score.
The Celtics don’t run a ton, but Thomas is particularly effective at taking advantage of the lanes and spaces that open up on fast breaks.
With his gaudy scoring average and increasingly tight command over the Celtics offense, Thomas looks like a surefire all-star. He made it for the first time last year, and he’s improved almost across the board this season (perhaps most impressively with his turnovers and free-throw shooting). Thomas fires away liberally from long distance, but those Gobert highlights don’t lie. His most remarkable skill is his ability to get into the paint and finish around the rim. If he can do it against the Stifle Tower, he can do it against anyone.