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Recap: Suns can’t overcome huge halftime deficit, fall to Celtics 123-108

The Suns fell behind by a lot in Boston, and winning the second half just wasn’t enough to erase that.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics mauled the shorthanded Phoenix Suns in Beantown Friday, in what was arguably the low point of the Suns’ season so far. Other than a couple of individual performances, there wasn’t much to celebrate in the building where Devin Booker has historically had some pretty good games. The Suns fell behind in the latter part of the first quarter with some horrendous shooting, and never could climb out of the hole that only got worse in the second quarter. The final score didn’t look embarassing thanks to a strong effort in the final frame, but the game was a good old-fashioned blowout at one point, with the Celtics leading by 30.

Here’s how things went down.

First half: The game was a frustrating one for Devin Booker. The Suns star came out firing, but finished the first quarter just 2/10 from the field with a technical foul to his name. He was visibly less than pleased with the situation. Jalen Smith looked good early, going 3/3 from the field and stuffing a Jaylen Brown layup attempt. He showed a nice touch all game long, really, continuing to build on the positive buzz he’s built in the past couple of contests.

The Suns’ lack of a true backline defender showed, though, as the Celtics had many high quality looks in the paint and built a 32-20 lead at the end of the first quarter. Robert Williams III was able to assert himself in the paint for the Celtics, and both Romeo Langford and Marcus Smart were also able to maneuver inside for high percentage attempts that might not have been there had Deandre Ayton or JaVale McGee been around.

Those trends continued in the opening minutes of the second period, and the Celtics lead ballooned to 26 at halftime. The game was basically a one-sided beatdown of the visitors at this point, with the Suns just 17/47 from the field and a woeful 3/15 from three point range. Jalen Smith led the Suns with 12 points and Cam Johnson had 10. Booker had 8 points on just 3/13 shooting at halftime.

Second half:

The Suns came out and cut into the lead to begin the third quarter, forcing a Celtics timeout when they “slashed” the lead to 20 points. The Suns almost made things a little interesting again when the deficit shrank to 16 points, but the Celtics, who were missing their leading scorer in Jayson Tatum, refused to let the Suns climb all the way back. They led by 23 at the end of the third quarter.

The Suns again looked to make it competitive at the start of the final quarter, paring the Celtics lead all the way down to 11 at one point near the end, but the outcome was never really in doubt and the Celtics were able to seal the win at the free throw line.


As good as Jalen Smith looked scoring the ball and in flashes on defense, it was very apparent he cannot substitute for the Suns’ missing bigs when it comes to making life hard for opposing players looking to score down low, either as abackline defender or as a big floating out to the perimeter to defend the point of attack.

The officiating in this game was not good, but the Suns have the talent to handle the Celtics, even missing Ayton and McGee. They simply didn’t play well enough often enough in this one. They didn’t quit and tried hard to make it competitive late, but they just didn’t have the time to overcome the deficit. Booker ended up leading the way in scoring for the Suns with 22 points, but was just 7/26 from the field and 1/5 from deep. The Suns fell to 27-8 on the year, the Celtics improved to 17-19.

Key stats:

  • The Celtics owned the boards Friday, outrebounding the Suns 51-37.
  • Boston likewise dominated the Suns in paint scoring, 64-46.
  • Besides Smith, Cam Johnson was another Suns standout, scoring 20 points on 8/15 shooting.
  • Hardship signing Emanuel Terry got 11 minutes on the floor, and fellow hardshipper M.J. Walker made his NBA debut. They both went 0/1 from the field.

Up next:

The Suns have a date with the Charlotte Hornets Jan. 2.

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