Final, Celtics 87-79: The Suns made things interesting for a moment, closing the gap to six points on six straight free throws to make the Garden crowd just a little uneasy. But Sullinger, showing he has gained the trust of the Celtics’ stars, tossed in a floater off a feed from Pierce and Rondo found Terry leaking out for a layup to put this one on ice.
The Celtics have won four straight for the first time all season thanks to an energetic display by their bench. Jeff Green scored 14 points in his second straight aggressive display and Sullinger notched a double-double by scoring 12 points and grabbing a career-high 16 rebounds.
The Celtics bench outscored the starters 47-40. In addition to Green and Sullinger’s work, Jason Terry dropped 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting. Kevin Garnett, with 10 points, was the only Boston starter in double figures.
Fourth quarter, 2:51, Celtics 82-73: The Celtics needed someone to finally stand tall on the glass, and Sullinger came through.
Sullinger has wrestled his way to 10 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, five of which came on the offensive end, to help narrow the Celtics’ deficit in rebounding. They are still behind, but thanks to Sullinger’s work, the Celtics are rebounding just well enough to have the comfortable lead they should have against a team that has lost 10 straight road games and nine of 10 games overall.
Fourth quarter, 5:25, Celtics 80-69: Leave it to Garnett to jump start Green, as a point guard no less.
Garnett picked up the ball at the top of the key and said, screw it, I’ll run the show. He dribbled to the elbow and found a cutting Green for a dunk, then repeated the trick a few moments later for a driving layup by Green against Gortat.
Fourth quarter, 8:45, Celtics 74-66: Well, Green has disappeared, but in his place others have stepped up. Lee tapped the ball away from Shannon Brown near midcourt and outraced the Suns guard for a layup, and the Western Kentucky product is starting to provide at least one of those steal-and-go baskets per game.
End of third quarter, Celtics 67-64: Shannon Brown and the Suns must be unfamiliar with the free throw line. They have only taken six foul shots all night, after all. So Brown can say he was out of practice for missing the free throw after referee Josh Tiven gaven Doc Rivers a technical for arguing an uncalled charge taken by Jason Collins.
Collins is dealing with a balky hamstring and ankle, and Rivers has tried to use the big man as little as possible in the last three games. Collins was pressed into duty here, and he almost drew a big foul while causing a turnover.
Third quarter, 8:31, Celtics 55-52: The Suns worked their way back into the game the same way the Celtics built up their lead: By playing defense and turning over their opponent.
The Suns got two buckets off turnovers early in the second half to make their 11-2 run to begin the half a little easier. Other than a Garnett jumper 16 seconds into the quarter, the Celtics have generated nothing on offense. All of their shots have been jumpers. Nothing going to the hoop.
Halftime, Celtics 53-41: We have a new entrant into the competition for weakest flagrant foul in history. Trying to defend Rondo full court — which, truth be told, was not a good idea to begin with — Dudley bumped the Celtics point guard and was handed a flagrant-one foul and a talking-to by the officials. Come on, now.
What was really flagrant was how the Celtics almost ran the Suns off the court in the first half. The Celtics forced turnovers even though they let Phoenix post a 44-percent shooting mark. The Suns piled up 28 points in the paint but drew only five fouls, which suggests their paint dominance was a defensive flaw that can be fixed with some halftime adjustments by the Celtics.
Green was the leading scorer with 10 points while Sullinger contributed eight points and six rebounds. Rondo handed out six assists. Nobody on the Suns cracked double figures in the first 24 minutes, although nine players scored.
Second quarter, 4:14, Celtics 47-35: More from Green, more from Bradley and more for Celtics fans to celebrate.
Bradley and Green scored off turnovers and the Celtics were off and running, leaving the Suns just looking for ways to protect the ball.
Second quarter, 6:32, Celtics 38-33: Has the “good” Jeff Green finally arrived for good?
One game after playing solid at both ends in a win over New York, Green is off and dunking against the Suns. He threw one down on former Celtic Jermaine O’Neal to bring the fans to their feet, then jammed home an oop from Bradley on the break to keep them that way.
Suns coach Alvin Gentry could hardly call time out fast enough.
Second quarter, 7:13, Celtics 34-33: Courtney Lee, who occasionally flies around the court with abandon, exploded to the hoop on the break, attempting to bank home a floater. Not only did the shot miss, Lee took a shot and went down hard behind the hoop — and right in front of Steve Pagliuca and Danny Ainge. He was able to get up and stay in the game.
Second quarter, 8:43, Celtics 31-29: Somehow, Jared Sullinger just has a knack for making things happen. Aside from being one of the few Celtics capable of securing a rebound, he is also one of the few guys in white who can score down low — which is a shock considering his lack of length and lift. Sullinger has six points off a variety of creative looks, plus three rebounds.
And, of course, he has also picked up two early fouls.
End of first quarter, Suns 24-23: If the Celtics could keep the Suns off the glass, this could be a cakewalk. They could not do so in the first quarter, though, and as a result they trail by a point.
The Suns hauled down six offensive rebounds, officially leading to no second-chance points but having an undeniable impact on every possession. They scored 18 of their 24 points in the paint, and had Gortat, Scola and Tucker finished a little better, the Suns could easily have more than 30 points overall and around 25 points in the paint.
Jason Terry appeared to rediscover his stroke somewhat. He hit is first two shots, which should be an encouraging sign for a player the Celtics are counting on to get hot at some point.
First quarter, 6:46, Suns 14-9: Boston College got a nice long look at Jared Dudley, and the ways he gets the most out of his talent. Dudley is not super long, super fast or super athletic, but he maximizes his abilities by always being on the move.
He converted his first three baskets — a layup, a dunk and another layup — by moving without the ball and getting the ball on the run, either in the half court or on the break. All 14 points for the Suns so far have come within five feet of the hoop.
First quarter, 9:42, Celtics 6-4: As he tends to do, Avery Bradley brought the energy right off of tip-off and his defense begat offense. Before the game, the third-year guard talked about how he is starting to get his touch back on his jumper. He showed it by hitting his first shot of the night, a baseline jump shot.
Bradley then stole the ball after a Suns rebound and converted the layup. Rondo followed a few moments later with a layup off pushing the ball to give the Celtics their first lead of the game.
6:47 p.m.: Thanks to a change in pregame media policy, the Celtics made Rajon Rondo available for interviews prior to Wednesday’s game. The point guard was not entirely enthused with the prospect of talking with reporters, especially since the topic of conversation was inevitably going to surround Monday’s postgame altercations between Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett.
A new video surfaced Wednesday that showed Garnett and Anthony needing to be separated, with Rondo in the middle. Rondo, who was suspended for that game for bumping a referee on Saturday and then hanging up when the league called as part of their investigation (he inadvertently admitted to the hang-up while he spoke), did not see the irony in him serving as a peacemaker on the same night he was suspended.
“I was pretty comfortable,” Rondo said. “I didn’t want anything to happen to the big fella. I had my teammate’s back, but nobody was looking for a fight or anything, just trying to break it up and be there for my teammate.”
The NBA suspended Anthony one game for his role in the incident.
The projected starting lineups are below.
10 a.m. ET: If the Celtics can take care of business, their current three-game win streak could be the start of something big. After wiping out Eastern Conference playoff contenders Indiana, Atlanta and New York in a matter of days, the Celtics open a five-game home stand against some decidedly easier competition on Wednesday.
First up is the Phoenix Suns (12-24), who have the second-worst record in the West thanks to losing nine of their last 10 games. The Suns opened their four-game road trip with a loss to the Bucks, who had just parted ways with their coach, on Tuesday. Including the Suns, three of the five teams the Celtics (17-17) will face at the TD Garden over the next two weeks are deep at the bottom of the standings.
Assuming Rajon Rondo has not gotten himself suspended again, the point guard should make his return to the lineup. We are also guessing Kevin Garnett will be in uniform, unless the league makes a late ruling on Monday’s incidents with Carmelo Anthony.
Join us for updates and analysis from the TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m.