Green went off for 31 points, seven rebounds, four assists, five blocked shots and two steals as the Celtics (29-26) rolled over the Suns (18-38) while Garnett took a much-needed rest. Four other players reached double figures in scoring for Boston, including Chris Wilcox with 14.
The Celtics’ 19 assists did not begin to describe how effectively they shared the ball. With Terrence Williams and Jordan Crawford playing meaningful minutes, the Celtics whipped the ball around on offense and found the open man, whoever it was. They shot 55.7 percent from the field and 10 for 22 from 3-point land, while holding Phoenix to less than 42 percent shooting overall and 4-for-19 from beyond the arc.
Goran Dragic had 19 points and 10 assists for the Suns, but it was fool’s gold. Neither the Slovenian guard nor anyone else on the Suns played well as the team lost for the sixth time in seven games.
Fourth quarter, 2:43, Celtics 110-82: Don’t worry, Garnett. Crawford and Williams will take things from here.
With the two newcomers sparking the attack, the Celtics are running up and down the floor at sparsely attended US Airways Center and leaving the Suns in their dust. Green’s night is surely done, as the small forward came up big in Garnett’s absence with 31 points. Four other Celtics are in double figures, and Lee and Williams are each just a bucket away.
Fourth quarter, 8:12, Celtics 89-74: The lead is still large, but not quite as large as it was. After extending their advantage to as many as 19 points, the Celtics got a bit too fancy, maybe getting a little carried away with themselves. They paid for it.
The Suns put together an 8-2 run to cut into Boston’s lead. It should not be surprising the Celtics are a little off, since they are playing Crawford and Williams, two brand-new guys. Still, uncontested layups are always inexcusable, even for new guys.
End of third quarter, Celtics 81-67: Jason Terry was shocked at how open he was. Both Phoenix defenders decided to follow the screener on the pick and roll, so the Boston sharpshooter casually dribbled to the top of the key and cashed in a triple.
While Terry’s shot was nice, the third quarter — and the game thus far — belongs to Green. Uncle Jeff has 24 points, five rebounds and three blocks, hitting nine of his 11 shots. He is making P.J. Tucker, who is a pretty good defender, and Beasley, who is not, look helpless.
Third quarter, 5:49, Celtics 65-52: Pierce cannot test Rivers’ blood pressure like this. Early in the third quarter, Pierce went down clutching his neck and had to leave the game. He was out only briefly before coming back in with apparently was just a pinched nerve, but Rivers’ comments from two weeks ago still stand: “If we have anybody else get hurt, they can’t get hurt.”
Back in action, Pierce was in top form. He faded into the corner and caught a nice dribble-and-dish from Lee for a three to put the Celtics back up by 13 points.
Halftime, Celtics 53-41: Jeff Green is ballin’. The Celtics forward is exposing every mismatch the Suns throw his way, and he is playing beautifully.
Green enters halftime with 15 points, two rebounds, a steal and a block as the Celtics may be gradually pulling away with this thing. His attacking style, which includes making the extra pass when necessary, encapsulates Boston’s play in the first half. The Suns are bad, and the Celtics are doing their jobs by making it look that way.
Second quarter 4:05, Celtics 44-37: By moving the ball in the halfcourt and advancing it up the court with the pass, the Celtics are generating very good looks. They just are not hitting them. As long as they stick with this style of offense, good things will happen for them.
On the other end of the floor, they need to shore up some holes. Gortat breezed to the hoop in transition — yes, a 6-foot-11 center breezed past the Celtics’ transition defense — and a fuming Rivers wants to talk it over.
Second quarter, 5:59, Celtics 43-33: Crawford was the big addition, but Williams actually does some nice things out there. A big guard at 6-foot-6, Williams is able to see over the defense and deliver some decent cross-court passes. He tossed one over the top to Terry, who was so wide open he passed it almost out of surprise.
Second quarter, 8:46, Celtics 35-27: Crawford is in the book. Thursday’s trade acquisition from Washington canned a three from the right corner for his first points as a Celtic. Within his first two minutes as a Celtic, Crawford has gotten off three 3-point attempts, which is no surprise.
Yet he is trying hard not to take every awful shot so far. Two of his threes came late in the clock when he had to shoot, and the other was an in-rhythm corner three, as we mentioned. Not a bad shot in the bunch.
End of first quarter, Celtics 28-20: The Jordan Crawford era has officially begun for the Celtics.
One game after the Terrence Williams Era opened in Los Angeles, the newest Celtic got his first burn in Phoenix. With the clock winding down, Crawford found himself in his favorite position: needing to shoot.
Crawford’s wild 3-pointer came nowhere close to going in, and it did come at the first quarter buzzer, but get used to that sight, folks. Bad misses on horrible shots are Crawford’s forte.
Meanwhile, Green is going off. The de fact starting power forward finished the first frame with 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting, with a three.
First quarter, 2:04, Celtics 21-13: Chris Wilcox will need to be more of a floor-runner and lob-catcher now that Jason Collins is gone. Still, he should keep doing those other things, too. Wilcox beat the Suns down the floor — which is not that hard to do, since the Suns are as lazy as they are unskilled — and caught an alley-oop from Pierce for a reverse slam.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers has said in no uncertain terms that Wilcox needs to complement his energy with some stout defense and pick-setting, which were two things Collins brought in his brief appearances off the bench.
First quarter, 8:33, Celtics 16-9: Give the Suns credit for one thing (and only one thing). They recognize that the Celtics have nobody to protect the rim, and they are attacking the basket as a result.
Dragic and Markieff Morris recognize that, to be more specific. They each have two point-blank buckets to cut Boston’s lead in more than half. And they look really snazzy doing it, too.
First quarter, 11:00, Celtics 4-0: With their tallest starter out, the Celtics are focusing on getting into the paint even more. Their first two shots were layups by Lee and Bass, prompting a quick timeout from coach Lindsey Hunter.
9:10 p.m.: The Suns are wearing their 1990s black alternate uniforms, so in case you were wondering, this game is worth watching.
8:51 p.m.: By now you all probably know the Suns are bad. A team does not lose 37 of its first 55 games and fire its coach in the middle of the season without being well south of terrible.
Just how bad are the Suns, though?
They are bad enough to have won only two games at home this calendar year. They are bad enough to have the league’s third-worst field goal percentage defense and give the fifth-most total rebounds. That is not just a product of a faster pace, either. Traditionally, the Suns like to press the issue, but this year they are only 10th in pace, which means nine other teams produce more possessions per 48 minutes.
They are the third-worst team in 3-point percentage, a startling shift from the “Seven Seconds or Less” era. Oh yeah, and they actually give Michael Beasley, the frontcourt version of Jordan Crawford, ample playing time.
Speaking of Mr. Crawford, he will play. He will not know any of the plays, but that should not keep him from taking an open shot if it presents itself.
8:10 p.m.: Kevin Garnett needs a rest. With the Celtics playing their third game in four nights, the 36-year-old big man will take a much-needed seat in Phoenix.
For Garnett, the toll is even greater. Although he only played six minutes in Sunday’s All-Star game, he still went through all the stretching, warming up and other preparation that comes with participating in a game. So for him, this would be his fourth game in six nights. Yeah, the guy has earned a break.
Jeff Green will start in Garnett’s place, meaning small-ball will be in full effect for the Celtics. Newly acquired Jordan Crawford is with the team and is expected to suit up, but how much he will play (if at all) is uncertain.
The projected starters appear below.
8 a.m. ET: Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett still will be walking through that door. The two Hall of Fame players were not moved at Thursday’s trade deadline, and as a result, they will finish at least this season in Boston.
Now the Celtics (28-26) can turn their focus to more immediate matters. Their first opponent on the post-trade-deadline schedule is the Suns (18-37), the worst team record-wise in the entire Western Conference. The Suns made a minor move Thursday, sending guard Sebastian Telfair to Toronto, but Telfair was far from the problem, and it will take more than minor tweaks to fix the hapless Suns.
Still, the Celtics cannot take any opponent lightly on the road. They recently lost a game in Charlotte, after all.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 9 p.m. ET.