The Boston Celtics ensured Monday night that they would not return home from their latest West Coast swing empty-handed.
After dropping consecutive games to the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers to begin the NBA’s unofficial second half, the Celtics came out firing against the Phoenix Suns. Boston led by as many as 20 and survived a subpar second half to pull out a 115-110 win at U.S. Airways Center.
The Celtics’ offense was clicking on all cylinders during the first 24 minutes, tying their season high for a single half with 67 points. Boston shot 54.5 percent from the floor in the first half and was especially effective from deep, nailing 10 of their 16 3-pointers.
Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass and ex-Sun Isaiah Thomas all reached double figures before the break, with both Bradley and Bass doing so on 5-of-7 shooting. Containing Thomas certainly seemed like a point of emphasis for his former team, as the point guard faced multiple double-teams and did not score until his seventh minute of action. He quickly turned it on after that, however, racking up 10 points over the next four minutes.
The Celtics also were tremendously productive with the newcomer on the floor, as MassLive.com’s Jay King pointed out:
Isaiah Thomas played 14:28 in the first half. The Celtics scored 47 points in that time.—
Jay King (@ByJayKing) February 24, 2015
Bradley, who finished with a game-high 23 points, has been on fire since the break, totaling 71 points over Boston’s last three games. He also was a menace on the defensive end with a career-high six steals, including a key strip of Eric Bledsoe, while the Celtics were nursing a three-point lead late in the fourth.
Not to be outdone, Thomas completed a four-point play to put the Celtics up 105-100 with less than a minute remaining, stared down the Suns bench, came up with a steal of his own and then sank a contest layup to extend the C’s lead to seven. He finished with 21 points and seven assists.
Yes, it surely does seem like Boston is going to love this guy.
The Celtics simply are not equipped to protect the rim — a weakness that’s become even more glaring with Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk sidelined. The Suns took advantage, with cutting guard (six of Bledsoe’s eight buckets all came from directly below the hoop) and big man Alex Len enjoying particular success.
The Celtics got killed on the offensive glass, giving up eight offensive rebounds in the third quarter alone.
Going back to the Celtics' lack of rim protection, here's the Suns' second-quarter shot chart: http://t.co/jwgjmOfwHS—
Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) February 24, 2015
Len was a beast on both ends for the Suns, making things very difficult for Celtics center Tyler Zeller. The second-year Maryland product finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks.
Up next: The Celtics return home to TD Garden on Wednesday for the first time since before the All-Star break. They’ll take on the New York Knicks.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images