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The Celtics were out of timeouts, and the scene quickly turned chaotic. Jae Crowder grabbed the ball and prepared to inbound it, but Thomas wondered why he was hesitating. When the pass eventually came to Thomas just under the Suns’ basket, he appeared to attempt to get a running start on his way upcourt.
Suns rookie Marquese Chriss poked the ball away and it skidded toward Ulis, who gathered it just beyond the right arc. Ulis took one hard dribble to his right, and with Thomas there to contest his shot, he lofted a 3-pointer that sunk through the net as the buzzer sounded.
What a disappointing game. The Celtics effort was lackluster the entire night, but in the game’s final minute, it looked like they would emerge with a victory. The Suns entered the matchup with the NBA’s third worst record, and trailing 104-102 with 20 seconds to play, it looked like Boston would escape Phoenix with its 41st win.
But Jaylen Brown missed one of two free throws, Isaiah did the same, Bledsoe hit back-to-back layups, and Tyler Ulis sunk the game winning three, putting Phoenix ahead for good 109-106. Boston’s 37.6 percent shooting tied for their second worst performance of the season. This was undoubtedly the Suns biggest win of their rebuilding year.
Page 2: Miscommunication Led to the Winning Shot
Added Thomas: “I thought Jae would get it off quicker than he would. I don’t know if he was looking to see if we had a timeout or I don’t what he was looking to do — not saying it was his fault. But when I looked down, I thought he would get it out quicker so we could go and then I looked away, looked back and Marquese Chriss was right there, he got a hand on it. I couldn’t get full control of it.”
The Celtics had been excellent in tight games this season. They were 28-13 in what the league defines as clutch games — within five points with five minutes to play — which was six more wins than any other team in the league entering Sunday. And despite a spirited rally after digging themselves a big hole during a disastrous second quarter, Boston simply couldn’t make the play to seal the victory.
When Isaiah caught the ball on the in-bounds pass, he was looking to push it up the floor even before he secured possession. That led to him bobbling the ball, and gave Marquese Chriss a sliver of opportunity to get a steal. The Phoenix bench celebrated in elation after Ulis hit the winning shot.
The Celtics were intent not to foul Eric Bledsoe in the final minute, ceding open lanes and allowing him to attack the rim at will. He finished with 28 points, 9 assists, and 6 rebounds on 9 of 20 shooting. Tyler Ulis was hot all game, shooting 8 of 12 and finishing with 20 points, a career high for the undersized rookie guard who models his game after Isaiah Thomas.
After a stretch of winning 11 of 12 games, Boston has quietly gone 3-3 in their last six. They were already undermanned in Phoenix, playing without Avery Bradley and Al Horford. The loss spoiled good performances from Jae Crowder (16 points, 10 rebounds, 6/10 FG), Amir Johnson (13 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, team high +8), and Terry Rozier (14 points on 4/5 three-point shooting). They also got to the free throw line 40 times, the second highest total of the season. The team will try to bounce back tonight against the Clippers.
The Rest of the Links:
Providence Journal: Recap
WEEI: Brutal Loss for C’s
Boston Herald: Recap