Saturday, February 4, 2023

Suns 106, Celtics 94: Jaylen Brown leading all scorers not enough against short-handed Phoenix

The Celtics' rally from 20-down fell short, as the Phoenix Suns beat them 106-94 Friday night at TD Garden.

Jaylen Brown, who celebrated another All-Star nod, finished with a game-high 27 points on 9-of-21 from the field to go along with eight rebounds, four assists and three steals. Jayson Tatum struggled offensively -- connecting on only 3-of-15, which were all made 3-pointers (3-of-10) -- to record 20 points, six rebounds and five assists.
"I think they came down and outplayed us from start to finish for the most part" Brown said during his postgame presser. "We got off to a decent start, but they outplayed us. No energy, they got more shots than we did, we were walking the ball up the floor every possession. We just didn’t have an enthusiasm tonight, just kind of going through the motions as a unit."
Derrick White started in place of Marcus Smart (ankle sprain) for the sixth consecutive time, scoring 19 points on 6-of-12 from the floor, as the C's never got into any sort of rhythm -- hitting a mere 38.7% for the game after shooting nearly 60% in a blowout win over the Brooklyn Nets 48 hours prior.

Mikal Bridges led the Suns -- who were without Devin Booker (groin), Cam Johnson (knee) and Cameron Payne (foot) -- with 25 points. Chris Paul added 15 points, eight assists, while DeAndre Ayton recorded 14 points, 10 rebounds and five assists to help Phoenix improve to 28-26 on the season.

The Celtics scored 20 points in the opening quarter, a different story to the 46 they put up against the Nets in the first 12 minutes. The Suns used a 25-10 run to start the second quarter, before Boston responded with a 11-4 spurt to trail 57-44 at the break.

Boston came out strong in the third period, going on 15-5 run on their way to outscoring the Suns 29-17 and trailing 74-73 heading into the final frame -- but that would be the closest they'd get the rest of the night.

The Suns started the fourth with eight unanswered points, which made Joe Mazzulla call a quick timeout, as Boston never got within less than six and were held to 20 total points in the quarter.

The C's were ahead 7-0 to start the game, before giving up the lead for good -- essentially playing catchup all game.
"I'm not really disappointed. I think we can't be inconsistent with how we execute," Mazzulla explained following the loss. "The fragility of hanging onto playing a quote unquote perfect game is very difficult. And so, Phoenix did a great job of managing the game with their offense and their ability to execute. And we had spurts throughout the game where we gave up runs where we didn't manage it well, whether it was because of our offense or it was because of our second-shot defense."
The Celtics at 37-16, have a 1.5-game lead over the Milwaukee Bucks (35-17), as they'll face the Detroit Pistons (14-39) Monday night on the road. 

Game Notes:

Boston was 29-of-75 from the field, including 10-of-38 (26.3%) from 3-point territory, while the Suns were 43.2% from the floor and 12-of-32 (37.5%) from behind the arc. The Celtics were out-rebounded 53-43 and outscored in the paint 38-32. Phoenix dished out 28 assists on 41 made baskets and the C's had 18 dimes on 29 shots.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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