Devin Booker exploded for another 38 in the Garden, but Boston had six players score in double figures as they soared past the Suns during today’s matinee meeting. Final Score: 116-111
The Game Flow
At first it appeared that Jayson Tatum would lead the attack for the Celtics today. An early steal in transition was followed by an offensive rebound, then a silky smooth drive-n-kick out to his big buddy Baynes for the open jumper. But alas, the young rooks aggressiveness wouldn’t take over offensively; instead, he did a bit of everything during the beginning of today’s game- he filled out the stat sheet in the first half and set the tone with 5 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal (he’d finish with 15/5/2/2 and 2 blocks)
It was Jaylen Brown’s turn for a breakout performance, instead. Today marked Jaylen’s 3rd game back since his friend’s funeral, but he’s scored just 11 points combined during the 2 games prior. He officially broke out of that funk today during Q1 after he led the break, received a beautiful one-handed bounce pass from Horford, and soared in for a picturesque slam. This jump-started Jaylen on his way to an efficient 4 of 7 shooting for 16 points during the first half and seemed to reinstate his confidence in himself and his position on the floor (hell, at halftime he was even predicting the W). Oddly enough, though, Jaylen would only shoot once more for the rest of the game.
On the defensive end, the Celtics simply had no answer for Devin Booker and the fastest paced offense in the league. Booker scored more points in the first half (21) than he did during his 70 point game (19) and left the likes of Jaylen Brown and co. searching for answers as to how to stop him. The Celtics had once again lost the rebound battle during the fist half (18-11), and on the rare instances that they’d stop Booker (who was 8 of 11 from the field in the half), it seemed that Monroe would clean up the boards and get the Suns a 2nd chance opportunity. Monroe finished with 6 points and 5 rebounds in 10 minutes of work during the 1st half. After the Celtics held a 9 point lead over the Suns into the 2nd, they were leading just 60-54 heading into Q3.
Things started to get a bit worrisome when the Celtics couldn’t stop the Suns P&R for a stretch during Q3, and the lead slowly dissipated as Boston couldn’t seem to buy a bucket until our bench served as the necessary spark plug. It’s been said that Marcus Morris doesn’t enjoy coming off of the bench, but boy does he flourish in the role. Morris was once again a catalyst during today’s Q3 run in which the second unit went on a 11-2 run to finish the quarter. Not only is he typically facing weaker competition off of the bench, but he’s also able to take control of the game offensively while Kyrie sits. The prettiest sequence of the quarter came in the final seconds as Smart found Semi in the corner for a trey-ball that kept their 2-for-1 hopes alive. When the Suns missed their attempt on the other end, Rozier and Morris ran the break and completed a 5 points swing with an alley-oop. This gave the Celts a solid 10 point cushion heading into the 4th, 89-79.
The final frame was anything but a breeze for Boston, though. The Suns stringed together a quick 13-4 run to keep the game interesting, and a Tyson Chandler alley-oop meant the Celtics were now leading by just 2 points with 2 minutes to go in the game. Of course, this is crunch time, so who else but the masked-man would step forward? Kyrie Irving once again dominated by scoring a clutch 5 points in the final minutes, but many thanks also has to be extended to Anything-But-Average Al. His court vision and flawless screen setting assisted Kyrie in his final two baskets to bring Horford’s assist total to a new career high with 11 (along with 15 points and 5 rebounds). The Celtics ultimately held on to win their 20th game of the year, 116-111.
The Hot and The Not
Hot: With 38 points tonight (on 16 of 29 shooting, mind you) Devin Booker is officially hotter than the Sun at TD Garden. That’s 108 points his last two games here.
Honorable mention? This stat:
Not: Our guy Tito 3Sticks aka Rozay aka Chum had an off-night on 1 of 6 shooting for just 3 points. He still managed to chip in some solid D with a couple of rebounds and assists, but offensively he was a non-factor.
What the Hell Just Happened?
The Suns were threatening towards the end of Q3, but the 5 point swing to finish the quarter was the difference maker for Boston’s win today. After Semi made his 3PA, the Celtics forced a missed on the other end and then completed the 2-for-1 opportunity with the slam in the video below. After getting so close to tying the C’s, the Suns were definitely left wondering what the hell happened heading into the 4th.
Marcus Smart and Al Horford put on a clinic sharing the ball tonight:
Jaylen drew a tough assignment in Booker today, but he did impress with a few decisive defensive stops like this:
And once more, just because it’s such a pretty play overall: