By MyFM's Jake Archer - The Boston Celtics played a little bit of an uneven game on Monday night in Phoenix. Brad Stevens was furious with how his team was playing and there wasn't much for excuse for Boston to be in a tight game with a ridiculously bad Suns team, fatigue or not. In the end, they outlasted Phoenix and pulled away for a 102-94 win that wasn't as close as the score indicated.
In the first quarter, it looked like it might be the Jayson Tatum versus Josh Jackson show. Tatum was the third overall pick in last year's draft while Jackson was the fourth. There were rumors about the Celtics having interest in Jackson before he skipped a workout with them. I'm not really buying that, because I actually believe Danny Ainge had his sights set on Tatum the whole time. He made the right decision.
The Celtics converted five of seven three-point attempts to get them off to a strong start and a 31-15 lead after one. However, after the C's expanded their lead to 39-19, they fell asleep at the wheel. Boston allowed the Suns to go right back at them in the second with a big quarter that cut the lead to three heading into the break. I'm sure the visiting locker room was not a fun place to be, and the Celtics knew they were playing down to their opponent.
Phoenix's bench had gotten them back into the game and the team's shooting percentage had rocketed up fro 24% in the first to 55%. They continued their run at Boston in the third and eventually tied the game at 56. Finally, the Celtics woke up and decided to start playing ball. They ended up pulling away for a 77-65 lead at the end of the third.
Forward Marcus Morris, who had sat out the previous game with a sprained ankle, had returned to the lineup for Boston. Morris has been playing really well, especially on offense, and has helped the Celtics get through this tough time without so many of their stars. Morris re-injured himself at the end of the third quarter though, and had to leave the game. He finished with 20 points, three boards and one assist. His X-Rays came back negative, but it's a big blow to a team that needs him. He'll likely be out for a few days.
In the fourth, the Suns never really rallied. The Celtics kind of pulled away and cruised to the victory despite not having played their best game. Though wins are important, this one didn't give much reason to celebrate. I'm sure the coaches and players know this and will move on with more things to improve on. Tatum did lead the way for Boston with 23 points, six rebounds and two steals. Terry Rozier and Al Horford also were each over 15 points in the contest.
Phoenix, like Boston, was playing without their best player. Shooting guard Devin Booker, who scored 70 against Boston last year in a loss, was out for the fifth straight game due to an injured hand. Jackson paced the team with 23 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals. Tyler Ulis, Marquese Chriss and Troy Daniels were also in double figures for the Suns. The loss dropped them to 19-56 which is the worst record in the whole NBA.
The win improves the Celtics to 51-23 on the season and sweeps the series with the Suns. That's good for three games behind Toronto in the East. Boston will visit a very talented Utah Jazz team on Wednesday night at 9:30 pm ET. With a win, they could finish this west coast swing at 4-0.