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Thomas scores career-high 52 as Celtics edge Heat

Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics scored a career-high 52 points in a 117-114 win over Miami, eclipsing his previous single game high of 44, set 10 days earlier © Getty/AFP/File / Mike Stobe

LOS ANGELES, United States, Dec 31Isaiah Thomas scored a career-high 52 points including 29 in the fourth quarter as the Boston Celtics beat the Miami Heat 117-114.

Thomas’ performance eclipsed his previous single game high of 44, set 10 days earlier.

“That fourth quarter, it just felt like I was out there by myself, working on my game in the gym,” said Thomas. “Throwing up everything and it was going in. It was a special feeling.”

It was the fourth-highest scoring total in Celtics’ history, behind Larry Bird’s 60 in 1985, Kevin McHale’s 56 in 1985 and Bird’s 53 in 1983.

Thomas, who outscored the entire Miami starting lineup 52-51, scored 29 of the Celtics’ 35 points in the final quarter, with the last basket coming on a three pointer from well behind the arc.

He hit six three-pointers in the quarter and finished the game nine of 13 from three-point range and 13 of 13 from the foul line.

Bird (1983) and Darren Daye (1995) had held the club record with 24 points in a fourth quarter.

James Harden of the Houston Rockets collected his seventh triple double of the season to lead the Rockets to a 140-116 win over the Los Angeles Clippers © Getty/AFP/File / TOM PENNINGTON

Asked if he thinks he belongs in the conversation regarding the league’s best scorers, Thomas said, “I do. The only reason I do is because I’m 5-foot-9. They don’t talk about me like they do all the other guys, but I’m fine with it.”

Despite coming into the game averaging 6.3 assists, Thomas didn’t have any this time.

In Houston, James Harden collected his seventh triple double of the season to lead the Houston Rockets to a 140-116 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, who lost both head coach Doc Rivers and his son Austin to ejections in the first half.

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Houston’s second-year forward Montrezl Harrell scored a career-high 29 points off the bench to fuel Houston’s win over the Clippers at Toyota Center.

– Like father, like son –

Austin Rivers was kicked out after he missed a layup and pushed official J.T. Orr with 6:38 to play in the second quarter. Rivers then yelled at Orr and waved his arms at him.

He tried going back onto the court toward the referee and had to be held back by a Clipper team official.

Both head coach Doc Rivers and Austin Rivers (L) of the Los Angeles Clippers were ejected from the game against the Houston Rockets © Getty/AFP/File / Jayne Kamin-Oncea

Then, 25 seconds later during a dead ball, Doc Rivers went to lead official Jason Phillips to ask him about it. The two exchanged words and Phillips ejected Rivers with the Rockets in control 59-35. Assistant coach Mike Woodson took over coaching duties for the Clippers.

It was the second time this month both Rivers have been kicked out of a game. They were ejected in a loss to the Washington Wizards on December 18.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Austin Rivers said. “I reacted to the play. I had no idea (Orr) was there. I was backing up and I said, ‘Call the foul.’

“When I did it I was turning and he was right there and my elbow touched him. I’ve never in my career put my hands on a ref and I don’t ever plan to.

“I didn’t mean to touch him. I didn’t do anything wrong. I’ll stand by that. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Harden finished with 30 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists while Harrell helped finish off the Clippers with 13 fourth-quarter points to propel the Rockets to a hard-fought victory.

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Elsewhere, the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 116-99 in a game that featured several of the NBA’s bright young stars.

Led by youngsters Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, the Timberwolves took care of the visiting Bucks at Target Center.

Wiggins led all scorers with 31 points, his fourth 30-point performance of the season. LaVine added 24 points and Towns registered his 23rd double-double of the season, the fourth most among all NBA players.

Towns finished Friday’s game with 18 points and 16 rebounds.

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