Without two of its Big Three and with a gimpy Rajon Rondo doing all he could, the Celtics ended a difficult road trip with a 116-98 loss to Phoenix on Wednesday night.
Boston has lost three straight for the first time this season and has rendered its early road dominance a distant memory.
The C's showed early spunk by taking a 12-8 lead, but the Suns responded with a 20-2 run and never looked back. Amare Stoudemire hit his first eight shots en route to a 26-point night. Channing Frye matched him with 26 of his own, making 6-of-10 from the arc for the Suns.
Eddie House led Boston with 17 points off the bench. Rondo, who left the game for a few minutes to get work on his sore left hamstring, had 13 points and eight assists for the Green.
Suns 116, Celtics 98
US Airways Center, Phoenix, Ariz.
Dec. 30, 2009
Headliner: Although he only scored eight points over the last three quarters, Stoudemire set the tone early. He was 9-of-10 from the floor in the first quarter alone and was only held back by a bit of foul trouble later on.
Unsung Hero: The Celtics needed something from an unlikely source and got it from House, who buried 5 of 7 3-pointers and held his own against Steve Nash during some stretches. House did not turn the ball over in nearly 22 minutes and has now gone five games without a giveaway, spanning roughly 94 minutes of playing time.
Scrub: It would be stating the obvious to say that Boston really needed something from Rasheed Wallace without two of its starters, but he simply did not provide.
Wallace seemed to lose his men on the defensive side a few times (he marked both Frye and Stoudemire) and did little offensively. He missed all four of his 3-point attempts — one of which was an airball — and had six points in 31 minutes against a soft Suns interior.
Turning Point: One of Wallace's few hoops capped a burst by the Celtics and pulled them within nine points midway through the third quarter, but Nash found Jason Richardson for a layup, kicking off a 13-2 run that essentially ended things early.
Boston never got closer than 12 points thereafter.
Up Next: Before another road trip begins next week, the C's will host Toronto on Saturday at the TD Garden.
Ray Allen led six players in double figures with 20 points in Boston's 116-103 win over Toronto back on Nov. 27.