The fast-paced 2020-21 season leaves little time to dwell on loses and celebrate victories. That was a quality win in Philadelphia on Wednesday! Let’s take some time and soak it in — never mind. Another night, another game...this time against the Eastern Conference’s sixth seed, the Boston Celtics, who entered the evening 31-27. They left TD Garden with a 32-27 record following a win versus the Phoenix Suns on Thursday.
How in the world did it happen? You came to the right place Bright Siders, for I will tell you how.
Jae Crowder rolled his right ankle in Wednesday’s game in Philadelphia which led to the 10th start of the season for second-year forward Cameron Johnson. The Celtics were without All-Star Jaylen Brown.
While it was a slow start for Phoenix (5-17, 29.4 FG% in the first 8 minutes), former Charlotte Hornets star Kemba Walker made his impact felt in numerous ways.: defense, scoring, and dishing the rock. Boston jumped out to a 10-point first quarter lead behind Kemba’s performance.
Monty Williams called a timeout to reset, and reset the Suns did, posting a 10-0 response to the Celtics initial effort. The efforts of Torrey “the Juice” Craig — I’m going to try to make that nickname happen — and Dario Saric lead the run for Phoenix as both used their active hands and physicality to keep possessions alive.
Devin Booker entered the game shooting 39.7% in the first quarter over the past 10 games. His efficiency has dropped tremendously in the month of April. That trend continued on Thursday as Devin scored 5 points on 2-7 shooting in Q1.
Devin Booker is now 25 for 65 (38.5%) in his last 11 first quarters.— John Voita (@DarthVoita) April 22, 2021
The Suns down by 5 points after one, 26-21. That is correct: Phoenix only scored 21 points in the first.
The second quarter began with carelessness, turnovers, and ice cold shooting from Phoenix. The fatigue of a back-to-back made it’s appearance early. The Suns, who came back and tied the game at 21 late in the first, allowed a 14-0 response from Boston by the time Monty Williams called his second timeout with 9:34 left in the second quarter.
Leave it to veteran point guard Chris Paul to stop the bleeding with a three-ball.
Langston Galloway made his first appearance since March 30 as Phoenix as a part of a Chris Paul, Jevon Carter, Mikal Bridges, Deandre Ayton lineup. The guard heavy lineup brought the hustle and quickness Phoenix appeared to be missing as they forced 3 quick turnovers.
They weren't capitalizing on the extra opportunities, however, as their shooting remained as cold as Isla’s middle finger.
Suns are missing some good looks.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) April 22, 2021
Deandre Ayton’s effort on the boards seemed subdued in the first. Perhaps the task of guarding a two-time MVP (Giannis) and a potential MVP (Embiid) the last two games caught up to him both mentally and physically. Tristan Thompson does not garner the same level of respect as the aforementioned All-Stars. We have seen Ayton extremely engaged as of late, following shots, using his leverage and volleyballing rebounding to himself.
Boston outrebounded the Suns in the first half 29-16, outscored the Suns 27-16 in the second quarter, and were up 16 points entering the half, 53-37.
Halftime: BOS 53, PHX 37— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) April 23, 2021
Paul: 12 Pts, 4-7 FG
Booker: 9 Pts, 4-10 FG
Ayton: 4 Pts, 5 Reb
Walker: 19 Pts, 7-8 FG
Suns: 15-43 FG, 3-16 3P
The legs continued to be tired in the third quarter, but credit the Celtics defense. The peskiness of Marcus Smart, the hustle of Tristan Thompson on the offensive boards, and the length of Jayson Tatum made the Suns work on every possession.
Kemba Walker’s season high was 32 points in February against Indiana and it appeared that he would be passing that mark easily. Walker had 25 mid-way through the third quarter.
At the 7:42 mark of the third, a frustrated Devin Booker committed his fourth foul and jogged to the bench with his team down 19 on the scoreboard. There would be no 70-point performance from Booker tonight.
book’s getting pissed off, so will he:— evan (@evxz17) April 23, 2021
Cameron Payne brought a change of pace and energy when he entered the game following Booker’s departure. He scored, he rebounded, he defended...he flopped. His insertion led to a to nice little scoring run full of fast breaks and quality possessions. Phoenix put together a 14-2 run as they increased their defensive intensity with Booker on the bench, cutting the lead to 9.
Monty Williams, continuing to stagger the Chris Paul/Devin Booker minutes, brought Booker back in with 3:28 left in the third. With 1:08 left, Booker picked up foul number 5 on a Tatum drive to the rim. Boston closed the period on a 9-6 run and the Suns trailed by 12 after three.
The Celtics did their part in trying to allow Phoenix into the game, turning the ball over a total of 20 times. It is the second most turnovers the Suns have forced this season. But Phoenix had a dreadful night shooting the ball from deep, going 6-34 (17.6%) on the night. They lived in the one-and-done zone as rebounding was non-existent as well.
Booker fouled out with 4:37 in the fourth. The whistles were constant throughout this game and the Suns committed 23 fouls. The Celtics committed 12.
Devin Booker just fouled out. 3 of his 6 fouls were offensive fouls on Kemba Walker— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) April 23, 2021
The Suns got within 9 points in the last 3 minutes, showcasing their desire to compete on a night when they clearly did not have it. Suns lose, 99-86 and move to 42-17 on the season.
This was not a fun watch. On to the next one.
The Suns will take a few nights off and prepare for the Battle of Brooklyn on Sunday afternoon. It will be a matchup between the #2 seeds in each conference. The Nets, who are without James Harden and Kevin Durant, play Boston tomorrow.
It is the fourth consecutive road game the Suns will play versus the Eastern Conference.
Until next time, Go Suns!