The Celtics lost their first game. But give them the Heinz Award for playing ‘catch up’ for most of 48 minutes.
The high flying Suns are back. They had the Celtics backing up all night. In a tremendous, highly contested 48 minutes of basketball, Phoenix put the pedal to the metal from the start and never stopped.
The Celtics gamely gave chase throughout, hitting back with a series of runs, getting within two points a few times in the second half, as they tried to wrestle control, but could never quite overtake the speedy Suns. Poor foul shooting all night didn’t help. They finished 9-18 in FTs.
The lead stayed between 4-8 points for much of the game. The Celtics could not get the stops they needed whenever they got close. The Suns opened up an 11 point lead in the fourth that the Celtics methodically cut into. They managed to cut it to 4 points four times, once on a Ray Allen three pointer (96-92), once on a Rondo lay-up (98-94), once on a Garnett reverse lay up (104-100), the last time on a Rondo lay up (107-103) with 22.5 seconds left, but could get no closer.
Rondo Lay Up
The Rondo lay up at 98-94 was a thing of beauty as he rebounded a missed Ray Allen jump shot and started to bring the ball out again on the side. Rajon saw that everyone was covered and quickly reversed direction back into the paint, making a twisting lay-up around Nash and drawing the foul. He missed the foul shot and was 0-3 on foul shots on the evening.
The Biggest Plays
With the score at 104-100, Grant Hill missed a jump shot, and Ray Allen got the rebound. Paul Pierce’s three point shot missed but Rasheed Wallace got the rebound and passed it to Rajon Rondo. Rondo’s lay up attempt was blocked by Amar’e Stoudamire.
Steve Nash followed that with a three pointer, using Kevin Garnett to screen off Rondo, making it 107-100 with 50.9 seconds left.
The Celtics closed again to 107-103 on one of foul shots hit by Pierce and another Rondo lay up.
Amar’e Stoudamire then made two foul shots and Rasheed Wallace’s three point attempt rimmed in and out with 12.9 seconds left.
After a time out, Eddie House fouled Jason Richardson underneath, and he hit one of two making it 110-103, essentially ending the game. Garnett got the rebound with 8.5 seconds. Eddie House missed an inconsequential three point attempt with 2 seconds left.
Thanks to Richardson, the Suns shot a blistering .542 from the three point line and .500 overall. The Celtics shot an equally hot .517 overall thanks to their rim attacks, but just 4 of 18 from downtown.
In an effort to cut the Suns lead, the Celtics began the second half trying to pound in to the paint every chance they got. It almost worked as they scored 60 points in the paint.
Richardson led Phoenix with 34 points on 6 of 7 from the three point arc. Jason was on fire from the get-go with 14 first quarter points. Amar’e Stoudamire played a forceful game around the rim and even dunked on Garnett a few times.
The Celtics went to Kevin Garnett early and often as Kevin Garnett led the Celtics with 26 points on 13 of 20 shooting. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen supported with 16 points each. Allen shot well at 7 of 11, but Pierce was off and shot just 5 of 15 on the evening.
Nash beat Rondo in the game of assists 12-11, and outscored Rondo 16 to 14. He also out rebounded Rondo 3-2. Rondo had three steals. Nash had none.
Garnett’s Declining Hops
It was clear that Garnett does not have the hops he had before the surgery. Amar’e dunks right in front of him, plus numerous alley oop attempts to KG that Kevin managed to parlay into acrobatic lay ups show us the current Kevin Garnett. The lift just is not there. Will it ever be restored or is this the new repaired KG?
Doc Rivers said at the beginning of this season that transition defense needed improvement. We saw why tonight against one of the fastest teams in the league.
What was more amazing was the competitive defense the Suns played. The Suns were closing out on the perimeter shooters quite well most of the night. Eddie House did not get a shot off for his first 8 minutes in the game. Was that ‘no defense’ Amar’e hitting the deck for loose balls?
The Amar’e Stoudamire block of a Rajon Rondo lay up combined with a Steve Nash three pointer near the end were the two biggest plays in a game that saw a myriad of big plays.
Both teams came to play, but Boston was just not ready for the speed, competition, and shooting the Suns threw at them.
Boston gets the Heinz Award for playing catch up for most of the game as Steve Nash pushed the Suns quickly up court on every single possession.
When Nash was out, second year PG Goran Dragic did much the same thing. The Suns bench outscored the Celtics bench in the first half 16-6 and helped out played the Celtics the whole game.
The Suns bench of Lou Amundson, Jared Dudley, Earl Clark, and Goran Dragic proved to be extremely feisty. They played very well and extended the Suns lead, even out playing many of the Suns’ starters against the Celtics. Dragic was particularly aggressive and hit the deck a few times going after rebounds, including of his own missed shots.
Rasheed Wallace was 0-6 from the arc and just 4 of 12 overall. He did make some big shots in the fourth quarter. Marquis Daniels was active offensively with 9 points on 4 of 7 shooting with 4 rebounds, 3 assists, but 3 turnovers as well.
Kendrick Perkins added 12 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. He and Channing Frye got into it going into half time and both received technical fouls. Perk also missed four foul shots going 4-8.
The Celtics are now 6-1 and head to New Jersey for a game tonight. They then have three days off before taking on the Utah Jazz at home.