Final, Suns win 100-94: With a chance to steal a road win in their grasp, the Boston Celtics came up short in the clutch.
P.J. Tucker did everything he could to give them late life, committing three questionable fouls to give Boston a chance to tie it in the waning seconds, but the Celtics could not capitalize. Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger missed layups with the Celtics (19-36) down by three points, then Sullinger hobbled off with a right leg injury as the Phoenix Suns (32-21) walked off with a victory.
Brandon Bass scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Rondo put up 18 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. If this was either player’s last game in green, they went out on a strong note.
Markieff Morris was tops for the Suns with 18 points, but Goran Dragic and Gerald Green gave the Celtics headaches with 17 points apiece. The Celtics don’t have another game until Friday in Los Angeles, where a much different team could take the court against the Lakers post-trade deadline.
Fourth quarter, :23.6, Suns 97-94: Rodney Mott might be comatose. He somehow declined to give Tucker a technical foul, despite some not-nice-words yelled as he left the court. Then Mott somehow missed Stevens screaming for a timeout after Dragic missed a layup and Green got the board.
The Celtics should get the ball at midcourt, since Stevens called the timeout before Green dribbled — or tried to, anyway. Stevens seldom gets fired up, but he was heated at Mott there. Wake up, blue.
Fourth quarter, :30.7, Suns 97-94: Before 3 p.m. Thursday, the Celtics should trade for P.J. Tucker. He’s been their best player in the clutch.
After his aforementioned fouls, Tucker did it again. He sent Green to the line — fouling out in the process — to pull Boston within three points.
This is very much a game, with the Celtics assured of getting the ball back.
Fourth quarter, :36.2, Suns 97-92: P.J. Tucker has given the Celtics some life, but only a bit.
Tucker, who plays hard but can be a little out of control, gave Jeff Green and Jerryd Bayless four free throws due to taking them out. With the deficit trimmed to three points, the Celtics pressed but left Markieff Morris with a wide-open dunk to make it a two-possession game.
Fourth quarter, 1:20, Suns 95-88: Rondo and the Celtics are barely hanging on. But if Rondo keeps having this much trouble hitting layups and Frye keeps making hitting threes look this easy, Boston is in trouble.
Rondo’s a rough 0-for-3 on layups in the fourth quarter, while Frye just drilled another triple to extend Phoenix’s lead to seven. Brad Stevens needs a timeout, because his team looks like it might be losing its grip on the rope.
Fourth quarter, 2:54, Suns 90-86: Rondo is pretty much proving that rhythm is more important than rest. On his way to looking nearly full strength before the All-Star break, Rondo has been on and off tonight. He has 18 points, 10 assists and six rebounds, but he’s just 7-for-20 from the floor, and he’s had some moments where he has looked out of sync.
One of those came after he missed a good look at a bank shot floater. He corralled his own miss but then took an awkward layup attempt that didn’t get over the rim. He hasn’t been bad by any stretch of the imagination — he just hasn’t looked to be in the same flow he was before the break.
Then again, if you can put up 18-10-6 while being out of sync, you’d take it.
Fourth quarter, 5:45, Suns 88-83: Channing Frye is almost 7 feet tall, which makes getting out on him at the 3-point line almost impossible. If his defender collapses off of him, he’s basically getting a pretty good look beyond the arc.
The Celtics have been caught in that limbo between helping in the paint and sticking to Frye. They’ve given up a spot-up three, then watched Gerald Green throw down an alley-oop dunk. They’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, but oddly it’s the big man stretching the floor from the outside.
Fourth quarter, 8:19, Suns 81-75: For a moment, the Celtics looked to be in the danger zone. They committed three turnovers to begin the quarter and saw their deficit grow to 10 points. Then the Suns just decided to stop playing defense.
With Kelly Olynyk bringing up the ball, the Suns apparently were befuddled at the very sight, because they left Jared Sullinger wide open under the hoop to receive a bounce pass from Olynyk for the bucket. The Suns defense then parted like the Red Sea for Rondo dribbling up the court in transition, politely stepping aside so Rondo could cruise in for a layup.
End of third quarter, Suns 76-71: Marcus Morris drained a 30-footer to extend Phoenix’s lead to five, but the shot alone wasn’t what got the Suns back into this game. Rather, the Celtics’ bench — plus Jeff Green — simply failed to generate anything to keep Phoenix at bay toward the end of the quarter.
The Celtics went scoreless in nearly the final three minutes of the third with Green, Olynyk, Bayless, Humphries and Johnson providing nothing on offense, and very little in the way of defense. When the Suns don’t turn the ball over, it’s very tough for the Celtics to keep pace. When the Celtics aren’t shooting well to boot, it’s virtually impossible.
Third quarter, 2:55, Celtics 70-64: A lot of people still sleep on Dragic — even the Suns themselves, who felt they needed to add Eric Bledsoe last offseason even though they already had Dragic on their roster. But the Dragon can play.
Dragic is getting under Rondo’s skin, drilling a pair of threes in his eye and blocking a driving layup attempt by the Boston floor general. Rondo’s gotten into a bit of a one-on-one match with Dragic, which the Celtics can’t afford to let him do; right now, Dragic probably holds the physical advantage there. Rondo might be best off involving his teammates, as he has in getting his nine assists so far.
Third quarter, 7:19, Celtics 63-56: If this is Brandon Bass’ last game as a Celtic, he’s going out with a bang. The physical forward has a game-high 18 points, eight of which have come in this half, as Rondo came out of the break feeding Bass in the midrange.
Goran Dragic is just a handful. At this point, he’s all that’s really keeping Phoenix in this game. Dragic is giving the still-hobbling Rondo fits at the defensive end. Dragic is able to get to the cup at will and is masterful at drawing fouls.
Halftime, Suns 52-50: Both teams cooled off toward the end of the second quarter — or maybe they just finally decided to play defense — otherwise we would be on pace for a wildly high-scoring affair.
The Celtics trail by just two points despite shooting only 35 percent from the field, thanks to the Suns being so loose with the ball. Phoenix is shooting 50 percent but has committed 14 turnovers (to Boston’s eight). The Celtics also have been better at the foul line, where they are 11-for-13, while the Suns are 6-for-12.
Turnovers and free throws are basically keeping the Celtics in a game they should have shot themselves out of long ago.
Gerald Green leads all scorers with 12 points, while Jeff Green and Brandon Bass each have 10 points for the Celtics. Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger are having rough nights shooting-wise, combining to go 4-for-15 from the floor. Rondo has created baskets for others, at least, piling up six assists with zero turnovers. Gerald Wallace also has made his presence felt, only on the defensive end, where he has come up with four steals.
Second quarter, 3:14, Suns 48-41: Maybe the Celtics should stop leaving Gerald Green open.
Green found himself uncovered as the Suns brought the ball up the floor and simply rose up — which, for him, is pretty high — and canned a triple. The Celtics have put a lot of effort into paring an 11-point Suns lead down to three multiple times, but they’ll need to maintain their focus on defense to break through and tie or even take the lead.
Second quarter, 5:23, Suns 42-39: By now, it should be obvious Chris Johnson is a bona fide NBA player. It’s mildly shocking he couldn’t find a job even at the end of the bench before he latched on with the Celtics.
Johnson has dropped a couple of 3-pointers and has driven hard to the bucket twice, earning a trip to the foul line for his trouble. The former 10-day contract signee has seven points in less than seven minutes.
News flash: That’s a good point-per-minute average.
The Suns maintain the lead, however, thanks to Markieff Morris, the premier part of the Morris twin duo. Kieff has eight points off the bench, flashing a nice all-around game that features jump shooting, hook shots and athleticism at the rim. He caught an alley-oop pass from his brother, Marcus, for a dunk.
Second quarter, 8:33, Suns 34-28: Kris Humphries is working like crazy. He’s just having a hard-luck game. The relentless big man has missed two jumpers and a short layup, all shots he normally makes.
He finally got a tough bank shot and a short jumper to fall, but the Hump clearly is frustrated. With the Suns playing as fast and as hard as they do, the Celtics can’t afford to give away points.
End of first quarter, Suns 29-21: It’s all about green so far.
Jeff Green leads the Celtics with eight points, off to one of his hot starts that could mean he’s in for a big night or could mean he won’t score again until the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Gerald Green has kept flying for Phoenix. His double-pump throwdown on the break was dunk contest-worthy — only it happened in a real game.
Check out Green’s jam in the Vine below.
First quarter, 5:29, Suns 19-15: Whoa, this whole thing has been kind of a mess so far.
The numbers don’t begin to tell the story of how sloppy the first six-plus minutes of this game have been. The ball and bodies have been flying, and P.J. Tucker and Gerald Wallace have thrown their weight around to pounce on loose balls. It’s a brouhaha.
One of the few guys who’s managed to rise above it is Gerald Green. The former Celtic has blossomed in Phoenix, growing into a reliable offensive threat. He’s coming off a career-high 36-point performance on Tuesday.
Celtics fans probably wouldn’t take back giving up Green for Kevin Garnett — the 2008 title made the trade worth it many times over — but add Green’s name to the list of solid young players from that era the Celtics gave up on a little too early.
8:20 p.m.: With Avery Bradley out to nurse his latest sprained ankle, the Boston Celtics will play right into the Phoenix Suns’ hands in one regard. Bradley is the Celtics’ best corner 3-point shooter, and without him, they will field a starting five without a true long-range threat.
Gerald Wallace replaces Bradley in the starting lineup, as usual. That means the Suns, who hold opponents to the third-worst 3-point percentage in the league, will have one less thing to worry about defensively.
One thing that could benefit the Celtics with this lineup is their ability to get to the foul line. The Suns foul a lot, just like coach Jeff Hornacek’s Utah Jazz teams did in his days as a player. Wallace is a bit better at getting to the free throw line than Bradley — although at 43 percent from the stripe, Wallace doesn’t exactly make opponents pay for it.
The projected starters appear below.
8 a.m. ET: It was a good break, but now Rajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics need to get back to business.
It seems like every hour brings a new report or rumor as Thursday’s NBA trade deadline approaches. Rondo hasn’t been immune from the talk, which means this could be his last game in a Celtics uniform. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge has adamantly stated he does not intend to trade Rondo, but that hasn’t tempered the trade talk.
Until Rondo, or anyone else, is actually dealt, the Celtics (19-35) will go on as though everything is normal. Their first post-All-Star break opponent is the Phoenix Suns (30-21), one of the surprise teams in the Western Conference. Widely expected to be draft lottery-bound, the Suns instead have stayed in the thick of the playoff race.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 9 p.m.
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