The Suns played well when their regular players were in the game, and played poorly when they were not.
After the Suns took a 74-70 lead on a sweet fast break just five minutes into the second half, the Celtics blew out the Suns bench to the tune of a 24-7 run to close the quarter and cruised to victory from there on.
“It’s one of those games that got away from us in the third, but there was a build up before that,” Williams said of the team just playing sloppy the whole game.
“We missed a ton of shots, for whatever reason,” he said. “I thought when the shots didn’t go down, it affected our ability to be solid on defense.”
Suns players of the game (all starters):
- Mikal Bridges: 16 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks
- Dario Saric: 12 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists
- Devin Booker: 17 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds
- Deandre Ayton: 11 points, 7 rebounds, team-high +10 for the game (but got 4 first-half fouls, and only played 5 second-half minutes)
- Ricky Rubio: 8 points, 4 assists
- The starters played only 17-28 minutes each
This was very much a preseason game where the starters were clearly on short minutes, so let’s focus on how good the Suns looked when their regulars played. Let’s rewind back to the opening tip...
This was a game of runs. The Celtics jumped out to a 7-0 lead before the Suns came back to lead 8-7 then 13-9 and got up by nearly 10 points before Jayson Tatum made some big shots to pull the Celtics back within three points at the end of the first quarter. Dario Saric was big with 9 points in that first quarter alone.
Deandre Ayton made another three! This time in live action, on a kick-out, just like he can do on many plays and very much like Dario, Frank Kaminsky and Aron Baynes have done all season.
Deandre Ayton told me during our ESPN Film Session: "Trust me, this league, they're trying to get rid of the big man, so we gotta show 'em what we got." He's now 2-for-2 from 3 in ORL. More on his development: https://t.co/4SGYHi9MmA pic.twitter.com/AvKyrQPGvn— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) July 26, 2020
“I’ve been working on that shot,” Ayton said. “It’s just that I know when to pull that shot now.”
But otherwise, while Ayton was active (5 points 7 rebounds early), he got flustered with the multiple active hands and bodies around him every time he got the ball inside the paint and had four turnovers by the end of the first.
The second quarter was close throughout, as both teams were playing with effort but poor execution. Dario was the best Suns player with 12 points (5-6 shooting) and 7 rebounds before halfway through the second.
The Celtics began to pull away toward the end of the half — leading 55-49 with just over three minutes to go. Booker and Ayton had 7 turnovers already between them, and they only made 5 of their first 19 three point attempts (though 19 in the first half is a good rate!). Meanwhile, the Celtics made 7 of 17 threes, helping them retake that lead.
Ayton was playing loose in this game... too loose. He collected his 4th personal foul with two minutes to go in the half trying to track and block Gordon Hayward on a reverse layup attempt.
Booker was not that much better, but he at least made a trio of threes to help keep the Suns in the game.
Frank and Mikal missed open threes that would have given the Suns the lead back, but missed and allowed Jaylen Brown a three on the other end.
And then Dario, the Suns best player so far along with Mikal Bridges, rolled his ankle HARD and left the game. Hopefully it’s one of those shockers that loosens right back up. I can’t count how many times I’ve rolled my ankle, felt it go numb, but then it’s fine soon after.
Suns down 4 at halftime, 63-59. Booker leads the Suns with 15 points, 4 assists (3 turnovers). Saric with 12, Bridges 10. Celtics leaders: Brown with 18 points, Tatum with 14.
Saric did not return in the second half (ankle). Neither did Kemba Walker for the Celtics (knee).
The Suns started the second half strong, taking a 74-70 lead after a Mikal Bridges block led to a Ricky->Book->Ayton fast break slam.
Rubio ➡️Book ⬆️Ayton ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/526btHQ3QM— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) July 26, 2020
That good feeling ended quickly.
Monty Williams decided right there to rest Ricky and DA only five minutes into the half for Ty and Frank, and that sub prompted the Celtics to go on a 7-0 run in just a minute of play to take the lead back.
By the time the Celtics had a 89-79 lead, the Celtics had made 10 of 23 threes (45.5%) while the Suns were only 8 of 29 (27%). The Suns lineup at that point: Cheick Diallo, Frank, Jevon Carter, Ty and Cameron Payne. I’m okay never seeing that lineup again. Nobody could hit a shot. Nobody even wanted to take a shot.
Here’s a snapshot of the box at the beginning of the third quarter. Check the ‘MIN’ (minutes played) and ‘+/-’ (point differential, or scoreboard change) columns. All the Suns starters are positive. All the bench guys are negative. Ugh.
All that’s left is a final score.
“They just couldn’t make a shot,” Williams said of the bench unit. He also said he was unhappy with their defensive execution as well.