The game’s final scoreline wasn't close to a full epitomization of Phoenix’s highly-energetic offensive production throughout their early-afternoon matchup with the Boston Celtics, but still, the team managed to ward off Boston’s flurried comeback attempts en route to a grind-it-out 100-91 victory.
Spectator presence at their home arena undoubtedly aided the Suns’ pursuits, and the squad received massive scoring boosts from alternate weapons to supplement their fan army’s sprightly support.
A message from Cam Johnson to the healthcare workers in the building today for Suns-Celtics pic.twitter.com/HkZ2tGVR95— Brendon Kleen (@BrendonKleen14) February 7, 2021
Cam Johnson sparked the bench production with a calculative 17-point display, while masterfully guiding the squad from three-point range – going 4-8 from deep. Mikal Bridges posted a game-high 19 on 8-13 from the floor as the pair continues to earn head coach Monty Williams’ approval in archetypal 3-and-D roles.
And the trifecta that is Devin Booker (18), Chris Paul (15) and Deandre Ayton (16) continue to showcase the type of dominance they can potentially conjure up should they fully gel as a well-orchestrated chemistry-infused unit.
The team got off to one of their hottest starts all year, blasting out of the starting gates like a thoroughbred racehorse and clomping to an aggressive 23-10 lead.
But Boston, guided by Brad Steven’s sideline wizardry, hurriedly sauntered back into contention, riding a 9-2 scoring burst to bring things a little closer.
Depsite an awful 7-26 start from the field for the C’s, they were able to utilize a stout defensive hostility to force five turnovers, and hang in the matchup. Phoenix would finish the first period up 27-18, led by Bridge’s 10 pts on 4-4 attempts.
Phoenix remained ahead as the second of four quarters got underway, but Jayson Tatum (nine pts in the first) and Kemba Walker began to imprint their own embeddings on the game as Boston slowly but surely dwindled their lead to two possessions.
Walker, despite missing a litany of deep tries, found sufficient footing from midrange, knocking down a few much-needed jumpers, while Tatum stamped his own regency down low in the post.
The tilt remained a back-and-forth slobberknocker throughout its first half, which dismayed tons as it continued to unfold, given Phoenix’s exceptionally higher efficiency rate (they were outshooting Boston 56-27% while barely clinging to a 34-29 lead at one point).
Cam Johnson buried three of his four trey attempts in the first half, while the Suns readily handled their opponent inside, spurred by Ayton’s physicality. They took a slim 52-49 into the halftime break after a last minute Booker deep bomb broke a tie. Phoenix outshot Boston 52-36% in the first.
The third quarter is where things began to look very scary for Brad Stevens and company. Like they did in the first, Phoenix trail-blazed their way to a 10-2 run, which was aided by a Jayson Tatum technical foul after he hurled a torrent of complaints at the ref in frustration with of a call.
Chris Paul started flashing his veteran brilliance, smoothly increasing his shooting frequency as he shot, dimed and dished with a furious authority.
Meanwhile, Booker took over Paul’s normal duties and proceeded to hand out gifts like Santa Claus en route to eclipsing the 10-assist mark before the quarter’s culmination. Boston tried to throw double-teams at him to quell his surge, but he calmly maneuvered his way out of each one. His key find to E’Twaun Moore with just over four minutes left stretched their edge to 76-59 after Moore floated in the rock, and at that moment, it looked like Phoenix was going to easily breeze their way to pay-dirt.
But their old habits resurfaced, and once again the Suns found themselves on the rebound as they tried to preserve their once gaudy margin as Boston clawed back. They were held scoreless for over three minutes as the quarter wound down, and the C’s took off on a 9-0 run to bring their lead back down to single-digits.
Having battle-tested leadership though, never fails to reap benefits, and that’s exactly what spearheaded PHX’s run to the finish line.
Chris Paul played most of the fourth’s minutes, and it was his ball control and tempo, plus Ayton’s paint disruptiveness, that ultimately requited the win.
Boston didn’t go away easily – both Walker and Tatum swished home magnificent threes keep their team around, while Payton Pritchard’s hustle and defense gave Phoenix fits as they tried to close. But for every big play the Celtics made, Phoenix had an answer.
Walker buried a stepback trey to bring the score to 86-80 after the Suns went on an untimely points drought, but Cam Johnson saw his bucket, and raised him a difficult and-one finish in return. Tatum came back down and knocked a three, but Johnson was ready to cock and fire again, hitting a three-ball of his own after receiving a well-placed pass to up their margin to 94-86.
Boston would score again, this time on a two, and came up with a tenacious defensive stop before Payton Pritchard quieted the arena with another 3 to cut the lead to three – 94-91.
The Celtic killer though, is used to these moments, and Devin Booker strutted back downcourt, eyed a one-on-one matchup with Kemba Walker, dribbled from right to left, and sunk a midrange shot near the free throw line to drive a dagger into Boston’s heart.
They were unable to capitalize on the ensuing possession, and Phoenix cashed in on a few charity stripe opportunities to seal the deal in crunch time and pull out the 100-91 victory.
Player of the Game: Mikal Bridges, 19 PTS, 8-13 FG, 2-5 3PT, 9 REB, +19 plus-minus.
Bonus POTG: Devin Booker, 18 PTS, 7-16 FG, 11 AST, 7 REB, GAME-WINNER.