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Celtics notebook: Doc Rivers impressed by Isaiah Thomas

March 7, 2017 GMT

LOS ANGELES — Add Doc Rivers to the list of NBA coaches offering testimonials to Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas.

“I still am amazed by his ability to finish in the paint at his size,” the Clippers (and former Celtics) coach said of the 5-foot-9 All-Star yesterday. “I get the shots and all that, but his ability to finish in the paint .?.?.

“I don’t even know if he can see anything sometimes down there, and he finishes. To me, that’s the part that stands out the most.”

Rivers has experience with smaller players, having been a teammate of 5-6 Spud Webb in Atlanta for six years. But to him, Thomas’ role with the Celts makes him different than other height-challenged stars.

“Typically most teams, when you have a small guy, it’s the guy coming off the bench to change the pace of the game,” Rivers said. “It’s rare or maybe never that a small guy has been dominant as a starter as Isaiah.”

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Rivers went on to say speed and new NBA rules that limit contact have helped players like Thomas.

When C’s coach Brad Stevens was asked the same question regarding the advantage of smaller players, he said, “He scores 30 a game. I guess that would be the advantage, right?”

Horford out again

The Celtics were without Al Horford for a second straight game as he rehabs a right elbow sprain suffered against the Lakers.

“He feels good,” Stevens said. “He’s going to go out and shoot tonight for the first time since (Friday). We feel like sooner rather than later he’ll be back, but I don’t want to put a specific timetable on it.”

Jonas Jerebko started in place of Horford in Phoenix, but Stevens reported that the forward “came down with the flu” and did not dress against the Clippers.

Perhaps the Celtics are seeing Round 2 of the illness that rolled through the team and much of the NBA this winter. Tyler Zeller sat out the first game of this road trip and clearly was not himself when he got in against the Suns, and Kelly Olynyk has been a bit under the weather, as well.

Avery Bradley, Gerald Green, Jerebko and James Young also have missed time because of illness.

“Yeah, way more than in the past,” Olynyk said. “I don’t know what it is. I think it’s been a little epidemic maybe.”

Johnson at home

Amir Johnson grew up near the Clippers current practice facility, and he even works out there sometimes in the summer. When he was a student at Westchester High in the early 2000s, some Clippers players were familiar sights.

“I followed them a little bit when they had Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson,” Johnson said before taking on a far more prominent and successful version of the Clips last night. “They used to come over to our high school, and I used to go to a couple of games when they were doing that thing where they tapped their heads (with their fists).

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“But it was really just Lakers City. The Clippers weren’t doing so well back in the day, but the Lakers were winning championships with Kobe (Bryant).”

The long route

Some around the Celtics were lamenting the fact the club played here Friday and then had to go to Phoenix for one game before returning, instead of playing both LA teams on the same stay.

But they shouldn’t be saying anything around the Clippers, who had a Friday-Saturday trip to Milwaukee and Chicago, came back for this game then head out to play at Minnesota and Memphis Wednesday and Thursday.

“We’ve got a tough road, but everyone has a stretch similar,” Rivers said. “I don’t know if it’s this tough, but people have tough stretches during the year. Some are early, some are late. But at the end of the year, I swear, everyone plays 82 games.

“I guess one year we played 81 because they canceled the game.”

Rivers was referring to April 2013 when the Celtics’ game against Indiana the day after the marathon bombing was eliminated and not made up.