5 takeaways from Phoenix Suns avenging ugly loss with road stunner over Boston Celtics
BOSTON — Phoenix kept answering the bell.
After seeing their 20-point lead shrivel down to one late in the third, the Suns made huge baskets and key defensive stops in Friday night’s 106-94 win over the NBA-leading Celtics before a sellout crowd of 19,156 at TD Garden.
The Suns were once again without Devin Booker (groin), Cameron Payne (foot) and Landry Shamet (foot) while Cam Johnson took the night off under right knee injury management.
They also lost by 27 to the Celtics the last time they played Dec. 7 in Phoenix. Boston led by as many as 45 in that obliteration.
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Short-handed, but looking for payback and coming off a 32-point home embarrassment Wednesday against Atlanta, Phoenix (28-26) responded with a huge victory to begin a five-game road trip as Mikal Bridges came up clutch in the fourth, the Suns received quality bench play and limited Boston to 38.7% shooting from the field.
Bridges paced Phoenix a team-high 25 points as five Suns reached double figures. Jaylen Brown scored a game-high 27 to lead Boston (37-16) while fellow All-Star Jayson Tatum added 20 on just 3-of-15 shooting.
The Celtics were without their leader, Marcus Smart (right ankle sprain).
Here are five takeaways as the Suns are at Detroit (14-39) for the second of a back-to-back Saturday.
Before getting into the game details, a little injury housekeeping.
Suns coach Monty Williams said before the game he can’t see Booker playing Saturday based on the workouts and conditioning of the All-Star guard.
As for Johnson, the plan was to sit him Friday night under injury management. He had a total of 10 points the last two games on 3-of-16 shooting (2-of-9 on 3s).
Cameron Payne (right foot sprain) will be re-evaluated for a third time next week as he and Landry Shamet (right foot soreness) remain out.
Bridges clutch again
He’s starting to do this on the regular.
Bridges scored eight of his 25 in the fourth, but his biggest basket came late in third.
With Boston cutting that 20-point Phoenix lead down to one, Bridges hit a tough jumper with a minute left to make the difference three.
If he misses and Boston scores as it did on the other end, Phoenix is down one going into the fourth with the Celtics having all the momentum.
The offense seemed to run through Paul for most of the game. Even Paul admitted it took him until the fourth to involve Bridges, but better late than never.
Williams has been critical of the bench play as of late, but he got plenty of production from that group Friday night.
Damion Lee scored 11 points, hitting 3-of-4 from 3. Up one to start the fourth, Lee cashed in from deep to begin a 14-2 run that put Phoenix ahead, 88-75, with 9:15 left in the game.
Dario Saric ended the run with a 3 off Lee’s assist.
Saben Lee played a huge role in that run as well as his found Damion Lee for a 3 to open the quarter. He followed that with an assist to Landale for the dunk and one.
Then Saben Lee tracked down a loose ball, went to the rim and smashed one with two hands that led to Boston calling a timeout and ignited the team to the point Deandre Ayton met him near midcourt.
Landale finished with nine points off the bench as did Ish Wainright, who not only hit a trio of 3s, but played solid defense on Tatum, who scored 20, but took 15 shots and only made three that were all from 3.
Wainright even heaved in one from 80 feet at least that didn’t count because it came after the buzzer, but to do that with one hand?
Up 20 after 0-for-9 start
Phoenix started a little chilly like the weather outside and temperature inside TD Garden.
Then the Suns heated up.
After missing their first nine shots from the field, Phoenix shot 11-of-16 the rest of the first quarter to take a 24-20 lead. Ayton and Bridges each had eight in the quarter and the Suns were solid on defense.
Boston settled for the 3 too much, but Phoenix did a decent job defensively.
The Suns then opened the advantage to 20 points in the second quarter by continuing to take advantage of the switches inside and having their bigs score over Boston guards.
Ayton worked it in the first quarter, Landale did the same in the second.
The Celtics also had no answer for Paul, who scored 11 of his 15 points in the second quarter off those same switches that put bigs on him.
The Suns also scored 12 points off eight Boston turnovers in the half.
Got to go back to March 3, 2020 to see a double-double from Saric – 24 and 11 at Portland.
That was the last game Phoenix played before the NBA shut the 2019-20 season down due to the COVID-19 pandemic before resuming it later that summer in the Orlando Bubble.
Saric picked the right time to have another one.
Starting for Cam Johnson, Saric went for 14 points and 13 boards. He had a tough stretch early in the third, but resettled and hit two big 3s in the fourth with the second one giving the Suns a 99-90 lead with 1:38 left.
Fans started leaving.
Then Ayton followed that up with a dunk to push the advantage to 11.
Fans really started leaving as Ayton finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
Ayton has averaged a double-double his whole career. That should be the expectation. Still could’ve been more aggressive, or gotten the ball more, but the five assists were huge.
Saric hadn’t had a double-double in a more than minute.
Live and lose by the 3
Boston came into the game eighth in the league in 3-point shooting percentage at 37.2%.
The Celtics fell short of that number in going 10-of-38 Friday, but they kept shooting from deep.
Why? This is what they do.
Boston is second in the league in 3-point attempts at 41.9 per game. Only three teams launch 40-plus from deep a game — Golden State, Boston and Dallas.
Brown and Tatum give Boston the best two-man perimeter tandem in the league, but 22 of their 36 field goal attempts came from 3.
They settled too much — or settled when they didn’t have to do so.
Brown and Tatum did get to the line, going a combined 17-of-21. Tatum took nearly as many free throws as the Suns as a team (12-of-14) in going 11-of-12, but those two set the offensive tone.
When they attack, the rest of the team follows suit or get wide open 3s. It’s a balance and they have earned to liberty to do what they do, but Tatum and Brown leaned on the 3 too much Friday night.
Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at email@example.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: 5 takeaways from Phoenix Suns stunning NBA-leading Boston Celtics