What a change of pace game, right? All the sudden, after the Suns were the ones getting consistently blown out, this time they handed it to Boston. Right away, Phoenix pounced on the first opportunity they could and didn’t let up. It also helps when the Celtics, outside of Kyrie Irving, can’t buy a shot.
At halftime alone, Boston was shooting a disgustingly low 21.7% from the floor. Meanwhile, Phoenix shivered around 50% most of the night with their blender system out in full force, racking up assists at a high rate with free ball movement. Boston made this a game late, but the start from Phoenix definitely saved them in this one.
Also, I’ll mention this more later, but this is the top of effort that should be displayed each and every game. There was communication and help going down on defense, a rare sight nowadays. Following a complete lack of it on Tuesday versus the Nets, it was being shown in spades by various players.
Without further ado, let’s dive into my usual ‘Thumbs Up’ and ‘Thumbs Down’ from tonight’s resounding win from the Suns.
Thumbs Up: I think it’s time for head coach Igor Kokoskov to pull the trigger on starting T.J. Warren from here on out. Warren finished with 29 points while showcasing his unique finishing package around the basket. Let me be the first to say it’s awesome to see Warren’s growth as a scorer, seemingly adding in another level from three-point land. His shot is smooth, no more hitch or leg kick, and he’s become suddenly the Suns’ best perimeter shooter. It’s wild, but Warren earned this. Is he a sleeper Most Improved Player of the Year candidate? I wouldn’t rule it out as a possibility. The further we go into the season, the more we’ll see of Warren as Ryan Anderson is fizzled out of the rotation. Tonight’s statement from Warren was definitely received, and he’s a dynamo when in a complete rhythm.
Thumbs Down: We need to all have a discussion about Josh Jackson. He brought effort when he was out there, don’t get me wrong, but the turnover problem is real. And it’s a major issue in the short and possibly long-term. Jackson is now relegated to only being Booker’s backup, fazed out of the rotation playing less than 10 minutes per game. The erratic play out of the Suns’ former No. 4 overall selection is worrisome, and he could fall further down Kokoskov’s pecking order with how Warren and Mikal Bridges have performed lately. Even in a solid win, his limited minutes still showed massive areas still to improve upon with multiple turnovers and fouls once more. By the way, after his 5-minute sequence, Jackson didn’t see the floor again. He’s out of the rotation, with maybe a long ways to go before he gets back in it.
Thumbs Up: Effort is something that I shouldn’t have to harp on, but, finally, the Suns brought it consistently against Boston. They battled off Boston’s attempts to close the distance, and, again, they were communicating a little bit! That’s a nice step of progress, but something that will be tested over their daunting 5-game stretch ahead. The Celtics cut it down to 11 with 3 minutes left in the third quarter, but Booker on the next few possessions would put the Suns on his back to climb the lead back up to 17. For the Suns to stay together and try to improve on the last few weeks, this type of energy will need to be maintained.
Thumbs Up: Surprisingly, no other major negatives to qualify as ‘Thumbs Down’, so we’re swinging back to the positives. For this one, we’re going to focus in on the Suns’ assist-to-turnover ratio, which has been a major indicator of they play over the past few weeks. Kokoskov’s offense is predicated on off-ball and dribble handoffs. It’s been sloppy at best, but tonight it was ran more crisp and it showed doubling their assists in comparison to their usual giveaways. And there were no turnover streaks that allowed Phoenix to get out of the game early. The little things need to be avoided by this team, especially if they want to use this performance as a building block. Sure, it was said after their win over the Grizzlies, but this time, against a Finals contender, this has to be replicated more often. This can’t just be some flash in the pan type of outing.
There are plenty of steps that can be taken from this game, now it’s on the Suns to use it as a building block to their foundation rather than crumbling it a few days later with another blowout loss.
By the way, Booker loves playing those Celtics, right? Another solid outing from No. 1 against a historic franchise.
Update: Somehow, someway, the Boston Celtics led a double-digit comeback and forced overtime. Not a surprise, but disappointing to say the least. That’s what happens when you allow a good team to stick around for too long.
Play-by-play updates now for OT, Bright Side readers.
- An easy steal for Irving in transition, and no Suns went back to contest it.
- Booker answers back with a blow-by layup
- Irving is putting on a show, now with a beautiful floater over Ayton
- Warren answers with his own drive to the rim to tie it back up
- Irving again, this time with an easy cut to the rim
- Booker answers right back with his own
- Another breakdown off a switch leads Horford wide-open to take the 109-106 lead
- Booker answers with his own three-pointer. Wow.
- Boston answers AGAIN. Jaylen Brown three-pointer in the corner
- Booker misses a drive, and Morris answers with a layup with no Ayton contest
- Booker misses another drive, Tatum misses a corner three-pointer. 114-109, Celtics, with 1:15 left
- Three-pointer misses from Booker, and Boston can close this out with another score — and Canaan fouls Morris
- Boston completes the comeback and wins