The Boston Celtics are keeping the pressure on the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Isaiah Thomas scored 32 points, and the Celtics remained in contention for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs with a 121-114 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday.
Al Horford added 16 points and Kelly Olynyk had 13 points and 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the season as the Celtics swept the four-game series and pulled within a half-game of the Cavaliers. The Cavaliers (51-28) have road games remaining against Atlanta and Miami before closing at home against Toronto. The Celtics (51-29) have two home games left, against Brooklyn and Milwaukee.
Thomas said the way the Celtics won - falling behind by seven points in the fourth quarter after leading by 19 early in the second half - could prove to be beneficial down the road.
"Coach even said in the huddle, 'Don't think there's not going to be playoff games like that. Just figure out a way to win,'" Thomas said.
Thomas was a key in the comeback.
The 5-foot-9 guard, who averaged 29.2 points in four games this season against the Hornets, scored on a drive and left-handed layup with 2:13 remaining to put his team up for good at 111-109. He added two free throws and knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key coming off a screen to push the lead to six. Thomas then passed up an open shot and dished to a wide-open Avery Bradley, who buried a backbreaker 3-pointer to seal the win.
Nicolas Batum tied a season high with 31 points and Kemba Walker added 23 for the Hornets, who were eliminated from the playoffs.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens called it a "good-bad-good" night.
"When Batum gets rolling like that, he's a hard guy to stop," Stevens said. "They made a ton of shots. They put us in a corner. That's hard when you've had the lead and they take it all the way up to seven. To come back and win it, it shows a lot of resolve."
Bradley was also big in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 points on three 3-pointers.
"We need Avery to make shots," Stevens said. "We need Avery to be great."
The Celtics built a 71-54 lead at halftime after shooting 63 percent from the field, including 11 of 21 from beyond the 3-point arc. Thomas had 19 in the opening half, including four 3-pointers as the Hornets continued to struggle with their perimeter defense.
"We were good on both ends of the floor in the first half," Thomas said.