BOSTON • Isaiah Thomas did it for Chyna.
On his late sister's birthday, he honoured her memory with a career-high 53-point night in the Boston Celtics' 129-119 overtime victory over the Washington Wizards in Game Two of their National Basketball Association (NBA) Eastern Conference semi-finals.
Thomas lost his sister Chyna in a car accident in their home state of Washington on April 15. Every day since has been an uphill struggle for the 1.75m-tall guard.
"She would have been 23 today, so the least I can do is go out there and play for her," he said after scoring 20 points in the fourth quarter and nine in overtime to give his team a 2-0 series lead at the TD Garden on Tuesday.
"There was no way I couldn't play on her birthday. I wanted to win for her."
Making his feat all the more impressive is the fact that he had a six-hour dental procedure the day before to replace a tooth he lost during the team's Game One victory on Sunday.
"What else is there to say?" Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "There was a point today where he was not feeling good at all.
"He's had a tough day and I thought he was going to really have to gut this one out. Not only (does he gut) it out, he ends up with (53). Pretty impressive."
They were the second-most points a Celtic has ever scored in a playoff game behind John Havlicek's 54 on April 1, 1973.
Pretty impressive for a franchise with 17 championships.
Still, Thomas is keeping his feet on the ground.
"It's nice (for) your name to be in Celtics history with all the great players, but until you win one of them championships you can't call yourself a great player," said the 28-year-old.
His previous career playoff high was 42 points against the Atlanta Hawks in last year's first round. He scored a regular-season career high of 52 against the Miami Heat this season.
For most of the night, Wizards star John Wall kept pace with Thomas as the two went shot-for-shot.
Wall wound up with 40 points - two shy of his career playoff high - and 13 assists.
"I was playing great defence on him one-on-one," said the guard, who answered a question about whether he had ever been involved in individual showdown like that with an emphatic "Nah, nope, nope, nope."
His point total was tied for the second-most in a Wizards play-off loss (Elvin Hayes in 1974 versus the New York Knicks).
"It was just me coming out trying to be aggressive for my team, doing everything I can to help this team win," he added.
Markieff Morris had 16 points, Marcin Gortat finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Bradley Beal also scored 14 for the Wizards.
For the Celtics, Al Horford added 15 points and 12 rebounds, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder each had 14, while Terry Rozier was a spark plug off the bench with 12 .
"It was a hell of a basketball game," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said.
"Two teams played their hearts out. Two great players played well. I thought both teams competed, nothing to be ashamed of."
HOUSTON V SAN ANTONIO
Game Two: Singtel TV Ch110, 9.30am