Phoenix Suns win ugly, hang on for a crucial 87-80 victory over the Boston Celtics

The man of he hour. - Christian Petersen

The Suns hit the first pit stop on a three game road trip dripping with playoff implications for a game against a Boston Celtics team with nothing to play for but pride. Boston gave the Suns everything they wanted and more, but an unexpected hero saved the day for Phoenix.

Recap

The Celtics sleeved jerseys are hideous. I own about two dozen Suns shirts and every single one seems more fashionable than the travesties of fashion sleevies the Suns have sported so I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise. Maybe they could just make them look more like regular t-shirts? Tasteless fashion aside, the Suns didn't get off to what I'd consider a strong start. Neither team was exactly lighting it up, but just under midway through the first quarter Boston led 13-8 and the Suns were looking a little disjointed.

Phoenix flipped a switch, though, and Bledsoe jumped a passing lane and scored on a breakaway layup to give the Suns a 14-13 lead just moments later. Dragic also had a couple wily darts to the rim as the run swelled to 14-0 before Rajon Rondo stanched the bleeding. Phoenix led 22-15 at this point and traded baskets the rest of the period.

First Quarter: Suns 29, Celtics 22

Things looked like they might be slipping away from the Celtics a little bit at the beginning of the second period. Watching Ish Smith (yes, rim protector Ish) send back a Jared Sullinger dunk attempt can exude that impression. On the other end the Suns offense seemed to be producing good shot attempts with a generous sprinkling of dunks and bunnies. The beleaguered defense was at least managing not to disrupt the Celtics from wallowing in their own offensive dysfunction.

Markieff Morris led a reserve group for Phoenix that flirted with blowing the game open by stretching their lead to 11 on several occasions, but Boston kept within striking distance. Then things unraveled for the Suns. Miles Plumlee air balled a free throw. Gerald Green appeared hesitant. Phoenix went 4:20 without a field goal. Suddenly the Celtics trailed by just four (39-35). The closing seconds that included a shot clock violation, an errant pass that went out of bounds untouched, and an inbounds pass that was stolen before the buzzer epitomized a first half of basketball that wouldn't necessarily capture the casual fan's interest. Phoenix had squandered an opportunity to gain separation and led by just two at the intermission.

Halftime: Suns 46, Celtics 44

The Suns were able to extend their lead to seven as Boston went scoreless for the first four minutes of the quarter. Kris Humphries was staying active for the Celtics, but some of that activity included negating a basket by way of offensive basket interference and hanging from the rim while trying to get a piggyback ride from Plumlee. Still, he reached double digits in rebounding early in the third as Boston struggled to keep pace. Remember the discussion of 50/50 ballls.  Humphries was grabbing them.

The game devolved back into something that only loosely resembled basketball. Both teams struggled to get anything cohesive on offense. The Celtics, in particular, looked like they might not have any legs with shot after shot coming up short. Lots of the misses for both teams weren't even close. Gerald Green lobbed up a shot that missed everything as his recent struggles continued. Once again the Celtics mucked and muddled their way along (or was it the Suns scuffling and stumbling along) and pulled within four to close the period on a rebound put back by Kelly Olynyk.

Third Quarter: Suns 64, Celtics 60

Going into the fourth it seemed safe to assume that the Suns could pull this out if they could just get to the good side of 80. That kind of game so far. Then the Celtics ran off nine straight points in the first 1:34 of the period. Overall ineptitude coupled with pillow soft defense helped incite the run as Boston appeared to be gaining confidence after managing to hang around the whole game. Jeff Hornacek called a much needed timeout that helped interrupt the Celtics unusual scoring paroxysm.

An unfortunate play kind of characterized the fight in the Celtics on this night. Plumlee grabbed a rebound and Olynyk raked him across the eye (literally clawing and scraping) sending Miles to the bench (Alex Len entered the game for him - spoiler alert). Not surprisingly, P.J. Tucker was just dripping with intensity on the Suns behalf. He looked every bit the role of a linebacker ripping a football away from a running back wrestling the ball away from a Celtic on one play.

The Celtics led 76-73 on a Chris Johnson layup after a wild melee that was more episode of The Three Stooges than NBA basketball, but the Suns responded down the stretch. Bledsoe tied the game at 78 on an and-one then the teams traded baskets to leave the score knotted at 80 with two minutes left.

With just one minute remaining the Suns had possession and the ball was in the hands of closer Eric Bledsoe. He launched a pull up iso jumper... that bounced off the rim. Bounced off the rim into the eager hands of rookie Alex Len, who engulfed the offensive rebound and scored over a helpless Boston defender. Len was fouled on the play and hit the free throw to stretch the lead to three.

Boston missed a three pointer to tie on the ensuing play and managed to grab the offensive rebound, but an intercepted pass led to a Markieff Morris fast break dunk to close out the game.

Final Score: Suns 87, Celtics 80

Comments of the Game:

Somewhere in hell is a TV that shows all of Plumlee's post ups

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So, I think we look better.

But it could just be we're playing the Celtics.

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I can't wait until horney trusts Alex Len

So we aren't out rebounded and out lengthened (whatever the word) every night.

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I haven't looked at the box score, but is Green 2-11?

He looks like 2-11 to me.

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Looking at Plumlee's eye is making mine water

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Just popped in to say:

Alex Len, bitches.

Player of the Game

Alex Len. He hit the decisive shot that pulled this game out of the fire.

The Good

Phoenix held the Celtics to 80 points on 30.9% shooting. Both are the lowest the Suns have held an opponent to this season. I know it shouldn't really count because it's against the Celtics... but officially it still does.

The Bad

The Suns were outhustled by the Celtics for the better part of the game. This is the second straight outing that a team which would seemingly have much less to play for was visibly more desperate than Phoenix. I'm just not getting how the Suns are having a hard time playing with intensity given the circumstances.

Gerald Green looks like his confidence is shaken. I don't think he's adapting well to his reduced role with Bledsoe back in the fold. It seems contradictory, but it was like he was forcing action and tentative all at the same time. Watching him pass up on shots that he normally pulls the string on is very out of character. I don't think I'm stepping out on a ledge to suggest that this is more than just coincidence. Green is 6-23 from the field in the last two games.

The Ugly

That was a damn near unwatchable game. About the only redeeming quality was the last few minutes. I wish I could have recorded it so I could have skipped through the commercials to get it over with quicker.

Bad basketball.

Final Thought(s)

The Suns desperately needed a win and they got a win even though their desperation seemed to be lacking.

It was serendipitous that Phoenix faced Boston in this game... because there aren't many other teams the Suns would have beat playing like they did tonight.

Also, Alex Len officially had his first Phoenix Sun moment.

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