After the Celtics lost to the Knicks on Wednesday, Boston point guard Isaiah Thomas stood in the locker room and was asked if he thought he would be named a starter for the NBA All-Star Game.
"I should be, should be a starter," he said. "But I can't control that."
On Thursday night, Thomas came up just short, losing a tiebreaker with Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan for the Eastern Conference's second backcourt spot alongside Cleveland's Kyrie Irving.
Under the league's new voting system, Thomas and DeRozan finished with 2.75 points apiece. But since DeRozan finished ahead of Thomas in the fan vote, he received the honor. Thomas, who was the last pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, has made a habit of using slights — both real and perceived — to motivate him, and this likely will add a new one to his list.
This year the fans accounted for 50 percent of the vote while players and a panel of media members totaled 25 percent apiece. Thomas finished first in the media vote with 61 points, followed by DeRozan (55) and Irving (32). He placed second behind Irving in the player vote with 92 points, one ahead of DeRozan.
"Your peers know who the real players are in this league," Thomas said earlier this week, "and when you get respect from your peers, that's really all that matters for me."
Players were assigned rankings based on their position in each segment of the voting, and the players with the two lowest combined scores were named starters.
Thomas, who is averaging 28.7 points and six assists, was vying to become the first under-6-foot player to start an All-Star Game since Slater Martin of the St. Louis Hawks in 1959. He will almost certainly be selected as an All-Star reserve by the Eastern Conference's coaches next week.
NBA analyst Charles Barkley voiced his displeasure with Thomas's omission during TNT's All-Star selection show Thursday night. He said Thomas should currently be third in the running for league MVP.
"He's been phenomenal all year," Barkley said. "It's no disrespect to Kyrie Irving, but DeMar DeRozan and Isaiah Thomas have been the best two guards in the Eastern Conference this year, plain and simple."
In recent weeks, the Celtics spearheaded an aggressive social media campaign touting Thomas as an All-Star starter. Each time tweets with the hashtag #nbavote were retweeted by other Twitter users, they counted as fan votes. So it was valuable when players were promoted by celebrities or pro teams with massive followings.
Thomas seemed to be gaining momentum this way, as teams such as the Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots, Seahawks, and Mariners all vouched for him, along with celebrities such as boxer Floyd Mayweather, Red Sox legend David Ortiz, and basketball Hall of Famer Allen Iverson, among many others.
But when the most recent fan returns were released last week, this support was not enough to boost Thomas toward the top of the rankings. He sat in fourth place, about 50,000 votes behind DeRozan. He made up some ground in the past week, cutting about 10,000 votes from the deficit, but it wasn't enough.
In a Globe poll this week of 26 out of 100 eligible media voters, several who left Thomas off their ballots indicated that his poor defensive metrics factored into their decisions.
Thomas's defensive real plus-minus — a metric that estimates a player's impact on team defensive performance — of minus-4.42 ranks last out of 438 NBA players, a full point behind the Nets' Bojan Bogdanovic, who is No. 437. Of course, Thomas finished first in the media vote anyway, so that ultimately did not hurt him.
LeBron James, Jimmy Butler, and Giannis Antetokounmpo will start in the frontcourt for the East. The Western Conference starters are Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry, and James Harden.
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook won't be starting despite averaging a triple-double so far this season, something no one has done over the course of a full-season since 1962, when Oscar Robertson became the only player in history to accomplish it.
Curry, Harden and Westbrook were tied for the two starting guard spots in the Western Conference. .
In fact, Westbrook wound up getting the most votes among both the media and the players, with Curry a distant third in each. But the scales were tipped by virtue of the fan vote's importabce being equal to that of the media's and the players'.