Final, Suns win 87-80: Aided by some questionable offensive execution down the stretch, the Phoenix Suns scored seven straight points to end the game and bury the scrappy Boston Celtics.
A fadeaway 3-pointer by Jeff Green might have tied it with less than a minute left, but after Green missed long, the Suns (37-28) got a free run-out and that was that. The Celtics (22-44) went scoreless over the final 3 minutes, 18 seconds in dropping their third straight game.
Kris Humphries and Chris Johnson tied as Boston’s high scorer with 11 points each, and Humphries added a game-high 13 rebounds, but did not play down the stretch for unknown reasons. Goran Dragic was a force, scoring 20 points, but Rajon Rondo nearly led a furious Celtics comeback in the fourth quarter.
This game won’t be remembered for beautiful ball movement. The teams combined for 31 assists and 32 turnovers, while shooting 63-for-174 (36 percent).
Fourth quarter, :54.1, Suns 83-80: The Celtics had a chance to take the lead at 80-80, but the Suns trapped and Stevens had to call timeout with one second on the shot clock. Rondo’s three out of the timeout missed, and Alex Len was fouled as his putback went through at the other end.
Now down three, the Celtics will need to execute at both ends to play spoiler for the postseason-hopeful Suns.
Fourth quarter, 2:30, Suns 80-78: Rondo is on another level. If only his teammates were on the same level.
Rondo has made some insane plays, including a steal after a missed Boston shot and a nasty behind-the-back dribble to escape the trap. But his team failed to convert the basket, and two possessions later a Markieff Morris fallaway jumper gave the lead back to Phoenix.
Out of an uninspiring first three quarters, an intense back-and-forth game has popped up.
Fourth quarter, 8:53, Celtics 69-66: Sometimes, people are the worst.
Suns center Miles Plumlee spent a few minutes on the floor and had to leave the game after getting smacked in the eye by Olynyk. While he was getting looked at, a few fans booed and a few even jeered him.
Seriously, folks. Grow up. An eyeball is sort of important to a guy who plays sports for a living.
Fourth quarter, 10:26, Celtics 69-64: All the Celtics had to do was find their lanes. Now they have a legitimate chance to steal one.
Phil Pressey is leading a scrappy lineup of Bradley, Sullinger, Olynyk and Johnson that’s opened the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run. Johnson’s three gave Boston its first lead since the first quarter. A fadeaway jumper by Sully and a cutting layup by Bradley extended the lead to five, the Celtics’ biggest advantage of the game.
End of third quarter, Suns 64-60: It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t make any sense that the Celtics are still in this game. All that matters is that they are.
Humphries is about the only player in one of these awful sleeved jerseys who can say he’s playing well. He leads Boston with 11 points and 13 rebounds, plus some decent defense in the paint.
However, the Suns are getting strong performances off the bench by Markieff Morris, who leads all reserves with 11 points and six boards, and his twin brother, Marcus, who got a tough and-one layup to help the Suns protect their lead.
Third quarter, 2:26, Suns 61-53: Let’s be clear here. If the Suns were playing halfway decently, this would be a blowout. But they’re not, so the Celtics shockingly still have a chance.
These teams are 6-for-30 combined from three and are shooting 9-for-33 from the field in this quarter. Hey, at least they’re all getting their exercise in.
Third quarter, 6:50, Suns 56-48: The Celtics will not go scoreless in the second half. It was touch-and-go there for a while, though.
The Celtics have looked atrocious out of the intermission, missing six of their eight shots and watching the Suns open up on a 10-4 run. The crowd actually started cheering when the Celtics briefly pulled within three — as in, one more point than Boston trailed by at halftime — but was quickly silenced by a Dragic three.
Halftime, Suns 46-44: This is a well-deserved rest for both teams, because the pace got pretty furious at the end of the first half.
It didn’t result in a lot of points — the teams are a combined 36-for-89 from the field — but it did lead to a lot of running.
The Suns have the edge because, while both teams are running hard, the Suns are just running harder. Their cuts are crisper and their passes have more mustard on them. They have actually committed more turnovers (9-7) and have fewer assists (5-11) but they are the aggressors.
Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic are tied for the game’s high with 11 points apiece, with Bledsoe adding six boards. Kris Humphries has nine points and six boards, but as solid as he is, the Celtics probably would prefer it if he weren’t their No. 1 option.
Second quarter, 2:28, Suns 41-40: It took a quarter and a half, but Jeff Green finally arrived. He’s on the board with five points, including a three to help the Celtics pull within one point in the sloppiest of sloppy quarters. Phoenix is 5-for-18 from the field in this quarter, which is the opposite of good.
Second quarter, 5:40, Suns 39-33: There’s a weird feel to this game. The Suns seem like they should be dominating, and they are at times. But they only lead by six.
Humphries and Olynyk have given the Celtics a solid presence inside. Humphries has seven points and five assists, and should have been credited with a blocked shot when he stuffed Miles Plumlee’s dunk attempt. Instead, he was whistled for a foul.
Olynyk has just two points, but he has four rebounds. Two of those are offensive, which has led to his one basket, off a putback.
Second quarter, 8:08, Suns 38-27: It’s tough to beat a team that just refuses to miss. That’s what the Suns are doing, the big meanies. They’re shooting 55 percent from the field and are staying stingy on defense, holding Boston to 1-for-8 shooting from deep and outscoring the Celts 24-18 in the paint.
Listen, Suns. If you’re going to make all your shots, you’ve got to at least throw the Celtics a bone somewhere. Otherwise, you’re just no fun.
End of first quarter, Suns 29-22: Don’t be misled by the score. For a stretch there, the Suns put on a clinic.
The Suns scored 14 straight points to lead by as many as 10 points after the Celtics’ promising start. Goran Dragic, if you didn’t already know, is pretty darn good at this basketball thing. He’s the best player on the court so far, racking up 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting with two assists and no turnovers.
Speaking of turnovers, the Celtics are committing a lot of them. They have four turnovers, contributing to the Suns’ 10 fast-break points. But missed shots are as bad as turnovers against Phoenix. The Celtics have missed 15 of their 24 field goal attempts, and the Suns are off and running after every rebound.
First quarter, 5:49, Celtics 13-12: Sleeves don’t appear to be holding back the Celtics right now. They’ve hit five of their first 11 shots — which is a good percentage for them, trust me — and they have four assists on those five field goals.
Humphries and Bayless in particular are in early flows, scoring nine of Boston’s 13 points. The Suns have been held back by missing all three of their 3-point attempts. And they’re not even wearing sleeves.
7:01 p.m.: Bradley doesn’t expect any adverse effects from being out for a month, without so much as a live five-on-five in practice to get his rhythm back.
Either he’s really good at getting back to full speed quickly, or he’s absurdly optimistic.
Bradley will come off the bench after missing 13 games with an ankle sprain. The fourth-year guard attributed his recurrent ankle injuries on his decision not to tape this season — a decision that he now regrets.
In the locker room before the game, Bradley said he was raring to go.
“I’m not nervous at all, just excited,” Bradley said. “I can’t wait to get out there. I don’t think me not playing is going to affect me at all. Obviously, I’m going to have to get a little rust off, but I’m not nervous at all.”
The projected starters appear below.
4:58 p.m.: You’re probably excited to see Gerald Green back on the parquet, where he flamed out as a member of the Celtics but has blossomed as a member of the Suns. You might even be a little pumped to see former Celtics Leandro Barbosa or Dionte Christmas, if you’re a diehard.
Let’s be honest, though. You’re JACKED to see Shavlik Randolph make his triumphant return to TD Garden, right?
Anonymous sources indicate the Celtics will not just show a video tribute, but forego the game entirely for a full-length feature film chronicling Randolph’s time with the Celtics.
Check out Randolph warming up in the Instagram video below.
4:22 p.m.: After spending a baker’s dozen games on the shelf, Avery Bradley will be back in uniform for the Boston Celtics tonight.
Bradley, who has missed the last 13 games and 19 of the last 22 with sprained ankles, participated in shootaround and is available against the Phoenix Suns, according to Celtics.com’s Marc D’Amico. No word as of yet whether Bradley will start or if Jerryd Bayless will remain in the starting lineup for eighth straight game.
8 a.m. ET: For more than two-thirds of the season, the Phoenix Suns were the NBA’s surprise team. With rookie coach Jeff Hornacek at the helm, the Suns appeared to be in position to cruise into the playoffs, exceeding everyone’s expectations — including their own.
Reality has set in of late for the Suns (36-28), who have lost three straight games and hit the road Friday to face the Boston Celtics (22-43). While the Celtics might not be world-beaters themselves, they have beaten the Brooklyn Nets, who have designs on a higher seed, and the Detroit Pistons, who mathematically are alive for a postseason berth.
Rajon Rondo is expected back in the lineup for the Celtics, who have lost two straight games. Avery Bradley has been tentatively scheduled to return from his sprained ankle, but nothing has been confirmed yet.
Join us for updates and analysis from TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m.