It looked like it was going to be a blowout Monday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena, but the home team made it interesting.
The Boston Celtics came out of the gates hot against the Phoenix Suns, taking a 20-point lead just minutes into the second quarter. But a game that initially looked like it would feature some of Boston’s deep bench players promptly turned into a dogfight, as the Suns fought back to tie the game midway through the third quarter.
It wouldn’t be a repeat of the C’s last trip to Phoenix, though. Boston closed the third quarter on a 21-9 run and put the Suns away early in the fourth quarter, winning 102-94.
Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 23 points and Marcus Morris added 20 before leaving after aggravating his sprained ankle at the end of the third quarter.
Rookie Josh Jackson led Phoenix with 23 points.
The Celtics improve to 51-23 with the win, while the Suns fall to 19-56.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Terry Rozier
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Aron Baynes
Boston didn’t mess around early against the shorthanded Suns, who were without Devin Booker and T.J. Warren. Phoenix played the C’s tight early in the frame, as Jackson scored 12 points in the quarter. But after Jackson cut the C’s lead to 11-9 with seven minutes to play in the period, Boston went off, ending the first quarter on a 20-6 run to take a 31-15 lead.
Tatum led the Celtics with nine points in the quarter, while Rozier and Morris each added seven points.
The Celtics’ brilliant first frame was all for naught, as Boston’s defense struggled to maintain the intensity and discipline it displayed in the first quarter. The C’s led by 20 with 9:32 remaining in the period but were outscored 30-9 after that point, as Phoenix cut the lead to 48-45 at halftime.
Tyler Ulis, Troy Daniels and Jackson led the Suns’ second-quarter run. The trio combined to score 15 of Phoenix’s 30 points in the frame.
Tatum continued to lead Boston with 12 points at the break. Jackson led all scorers with 14 points.
Phoenix finally erased Boston’s 20-point lead when Marquese Chriss drilled a triple to tie the game at 56 with 6:39 left in the third. The C’s punched back, however, going on a 14-3 run to take a 70-59 lead with a 1:33 remaining. The Suns appeared to be able to cut the lead to single digits to end the third, but Daniels fouled Morris on a 3-point attempt at the end of the quarter. The C’s forward hit all three freebies to give Boston a 77-65 lead after three.
Morris was Boston’s high man after three with 20 points, while Tatum added 17. Jackson continued to lead the Suns with 17 of his own.
C’S PUT IT AWAY
Boston quickly put the dagger in the Suns in the final stanza. After Ulis cut the lead to eight with two buckets in the lane, Abdel Nader knocked down a triple. Then Horford did the same two possessions later to push the lead to 14.
Phoenix continued to battle but was unable to get the deficit under double digits, as the Celtics pulled away for its fourth consecutive victory against a Western Conference opponent.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE GAME
Don’t hurt them, Jayson.
Boston’s road trip continues Wednesday when the team visits the Utah Jazz. Tip-off is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. ET.
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