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Recap: Suns lose to Celtics, unable to recreate buzzer-beater magic

Phoenix lost to Boston tonight, 102-94, with both teams decimated by injury. Tyler Ulis had an excellent game, but did not have a chance to hit a game winner this time.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics beat the Suns Monday, 102-94, handing the Suns their 12th straight loss.

Jayson Tatum and Josh Jackson, who went back to back in the 2017 Draft, each scored 23 points and grabbed six rebounds. But it was Tatum once again walking away with the win as the Celtics sweep the Suns for the season.

Tyler Ulis had a season high 19 points, and even made a three pointer with seconds left, but this time the Suns weren’t in position to win. Ulis added 8 assists and 5 rebounds.

Troy Daniels carried the Suns behind the arc, making six of the Suns 12 threes, filling in for injured Devin Booker. T.J. Warren missed the game as well as Tyson Chandler.

Alan “Big Sauce” Williams had 3 points and 4 rebounds in his season debut.

The Suns now have only 2 more chances to avoid an o-fer month. Those games are against the Clippers and — gulp — the Rockets this week.

Over the first five minutes of the game, the 2017 draft battle we were all hoping for indeed became the focal point of the game. Each team kept the tempo up and ran the offense primarily through their rookie forwards, meaning Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum combined to take nine of the first 21 combined shots, and entered the first timeout break at the 6:35 mark with 18 combined points.

The strategy worked out poorly for the Suns, as Jackson’s continued aggressiveness on offense became more a necessity than a luxury when his teammates started to miss open shots (Dragan Bender) and turn the ball over (Elfrid Payton). Jackson made just one of his next five shots, and Boston built an 11-point lead.

It was painful to watch the Celtics continue to beat up on the Suns, simply because they do so many things that the Suns try to do better than the Suns can do them. Boston swallowed nearly every set the Suns ran by switching perfectly on and off the ball, and their offense created open 3s consistently. By the end of the first quarter, the Celtics led 31-15.

There were a bunch of interesting revenge games going on within this one (Marcus Morris vs. City of Phoenix; Jackson vs. Tatum), but the most important one became Greg Monroe vs. Alex Len. Early in the second quarter, the battle of big men favored Len, but the Celtics’ hot shooting allowed them to maintain their lead.

Alan Williams made his season debut around the 8-minute mark of the second, missing a free-throw line floater right after he entered the game.

And just as we joked about all season, the Sauce Effect made a ridiculous impact on Tyler Ulis’ game. The second-year point guard, who has recently shown what made him fun at times last season and at Kentucky, looked rejuvenated playing next to his favorite pick-and-roll partner. Ulis took over at the end of the first half, finally getting back to the off-balance shots that make him difficult to defend and using the threat of his drive to open up offense for the team.

Boston’s lead eroded to just three at the half, 48-45.

The Suns opened the second half well, and tied the game at 50 in the first two minutes after a Jackson layup and a Troy Daniels 3. Another Daniels 3 kept the offense alive — as you can tell, points were just as hard to come by in this one on the Suns’ end as they have been all year. There is just not enough shot creation when Devin Booker is out.

Between Daniels’ hot shooting and the Celtics’ sloppy play (five third quarter turnovers), the Suns were able to stay in the game and take a 12-point deficit into the final frame.

The fourth quarter was a grind, with no one player or tactic working particularly well for either team. Daniels went a little cold, the Suns’ youngsters made some mistakes, and the game plodded along until the Suns cut the lead to 10, prompting Brad Stevens to call a timeout with 4:12 left in the final quarter.

After some painful regression from the eight 3s he hit last night, Terry Rozier clinched the Celtics’ victory with a pull-up dagger late in the game.

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