In his six previous playoff games with the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas has not played well.

Well, Friday night he rolled a lucky seven and played the game of his life. Thomas scored a career high 42 points in the Celtics 111-103 win in Game 3 against the Hawks.

Make no mistake about it, this was a must win for the Celtics after playing two clunkers down south. The key was to come out strong. And that’s just what they did as they raced out to 20 point first half lead.

And the man in charge was Isaiah. Back in 1984, Cedric Maxwell — before game seven of the NBA Finals against the Lakers — told his teammates to jump on his back and he would carry them. That’s exactly what Thomas did in Game 3. He carried the Celtics on his back. He hit 3’s, he drove to the basket, and he got fouled, hitting 13-of-15 from the line.

After losing the first two in Atlanta, Celtics coach Brad Stevens knew he had to make adjustments. Marcus Smart and Jared Sullinger were awful in Games 1 and 2. So Stevens inserted Jonas Jerebko and Evan Turner into the starting lineup. Jerebko was magnificent as he recorded a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds. He gave them hustle, athleticism, and shooting that Sullinger could not.

I am president of the Evan Turner fan club. Turner and Steven’s system are a perfect marriage. Turner filled out that stat sheet with 17 points, seven assists, and five steals. When the Hawks too a brief fourth quarter lead, Turner made big play after big play on both ends of the floor. 

The Celtics led by 17 early in the third quarter, but the Hawks fought back as the two teams went bucket-for-bucket in a tense fourth quarter. With 9:49 left, the Hawks took their first lead of the night. But the Celtics though showed great resiliency and never folded under the Hawk’s pressure. With 1:53 left, Isaiah buried a deep three to give the green a seven point lead and some breathing room down the stretch. The Celtics then played great defensive holding the Hawks to two points the rest of the way.

Thomas wants to be known as one of the elite players in the league. And he knows that to get the recognition you have to come up big in the post season. Tonight, no one came up bigger than the Celtics 5-foot-9-inch guard.

Let’s hope he has a few more of these left in him.