<![CDATA[Nothing erases a feel good win quite like a bad loss to a crappy team. Despite being short-handed (no Al Horford – elbow, no Avery Bradley – hamstring) and playing like crap for 3 quarters, the Celtics almost stole a win. But horrendous execution over the final 90 seconds and a clutch, buzzer-beating 3 by Tyler Ulis resulted in a 109-106 victory for the lowly Suns.
The Game Flow
The Celtics were able to force Phoenix to play in the half-court by limiting their transition opportunities on offense. Boston were scorching hot shooting 6-9 starting out, stretching their largest lead to as much as 11, but after a flurry of turnovers and poor shot selection, their shooting percentage plummeted to 27% on the quarter. The C’s were able to maintain a 22-19 lead though heading into the second quarter.
Tempers began to flare as the game got more chippy. Just when it began to hit a dull moment watching brick after brick, the two shortest players on the court (Isaiah Thomas and Tyler Ulis at 5’9″) had to duke it out on a jump ball scenario won by IT. Tyler Ulis performed his finest Isaiah Thomas fourth quarter impersonation by scoring 13 in the quarter. Boston couldn’t break their cold shooting streak as they found themselves down 7 at the half, shooting a mere 30% from the field.
The Suns attacked Isaiah Thomas and his four fouls immediately by posting Eric Bledsoe up on him. Thanks to great help defense, Boston was able to converge on the ball to force late, contested shots. However, the C’s just could not get out of this shooting spell and were held in check the entire quarter. Rookie sensation Marquese Chriss set a new career-high in blocks for Phoenix with five as he denied damn near every attempt that came remotely close to the rim. Terry Rozier managed to tee off two shots from beyond the arc as part of a 13-4 run before the quarter ended to cut the deficit to four.
Both teams amped their level of physicality during the first few minutes of the fourth. Rozier continued to make big play after the next with a crucial steal that led to an IT three pointer to bring his team to within one point. Marcus Smart, the king of 50/50 balls, made his impact on the game through his hustle on the defensive end, not to mention attempting a whopping 12 free throws. Jae Crowder drilled a clutch and-one layup following a no-call on Bledsoe who fell to the floor, giving Boston a numbers advantage on the drive. You would think once it got into a free-throw battle that the game would be sealed by Boston but things didn’t go according to plan for Brad Stevens and co. Isaiah Thomas of all people missed a free throw that kept the game at a manageable two points for the Suns. After Eric Bledsoe converted on a layup that wasn’t even contested to tie the game, IT lost control of the in-bounds pass and it rolled perfectly in Ulis’ lap where he made one move and hit the game-winning three pointer.
Games like these where the win is practically in hand but mental mistakes is what kept Phoenix’s hopes alive. Not only did the Celtics miss key free-throws that would have assured the win had they all been made, but to play such lazy defense on Bledsoe who has been hot all day is inexcusable. On top of that, the fumble on IT’s end did not ease the pain one bit as Ulis was able to steal the win with a game-winning three pointer.
Amir Johnson’s hustle pays off as he gets the assist to IT for the corner three. AJ wreaked havoc on the defensive end with 3 blocks in the game.
It’s not often you see two 5’9″ NBA players do a jump ball but when you do, you watch it over and over. IT bested Ulis on the jump and in the scoring department on the night.
Isaiah Thomas: 35 points on 10/25 shooting, 10-11 free throws, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals.
Jae Crowder: 16 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist.
Eric Bledsoe: 28 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists.
Tyler Ulis: Career-high 20 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal.