The Boston Celtics’ win streak ended yesterday afternoon in friggin’ Sacramento. So I imagine many folks had low expectations for a road back-to-back in Phoenix against Aron Baynes and the Suns (oh and also some promising, fledgling prospect you might’ve heard about named Devin Booker).
Lockdown defense and solid play up and down the depth chart managed to avoid the start of a losing streak. Jayson Tatum led the way for Boston with 26-11-3-1. Kemba Walker had a “quiet” offensive game (19-2-5) in which he showed off his playmaking and defense instead of the bucket-getting we all know. Unfortunately Marcus Smart sprained his ankle midway through Q4, but not before another strong outing (17-3-4-2-1), the sort of well-rounded game that distinguished this grindy 99-85 win.
The game did not begin auspiciously for the Celtics’ offense, to say the least:
Defense was not exactly great either as the Suns’ motley crew of roleplayers—Kelly Oubre, Dario Saric, the aforementioned Baynes—seemed untroubled by the
wax on the rims weird scoring issues of their opponents. The Celtics fanbase, meanwhile, voiced considerable displeasure with Enes Kanter, and the media had more measured questions:
A combination of forced turnovers (3 steals!) and continued offensive aggression on Boston’s part got them back in it, chipping away at and eventually overtaking Phoenix’s lead at the quarter’s end, 26-22. Cool things like this got them there:
They kept the lead going—but only just, and coach was displeased by the execution:
We interrupt this program to comment on OUBRE MICROAGGRESSIONS:
Red’s Army can confirm at this time that Oubre did this, and it was both funny and made Oubre look heeeeeeeelllllllllllaaaaaa tryhard.
Despite the Suns’ best efforts, their worst tendencies—a pronounced proclivity for turnovers, a weak frontcourt aside from Baynes and the suspended DeAndre Ayton—began surfacing. The Celtics parlayed this into a 21-4 run and took control. LET’S GO TO THE TAPE:
57-42 Cs at the half. Should we thank GRANT? I mean, us at WCT are going to pretty much regardless, but there is factual basis for it:
For half of the third quarter, it seemed like the Celtics got their chutzpah in place and were just toying with the Suns:
Some of this was gamesmanship:
Despite some resistance in the form of intermittent nice plays by Booker, Baynes, Oubre and Tyler Johnson, the third ended with Boston firmly in control, 80-65.
The fourth started mostly the same, but then, because virtually Nothing Can Be Easy, this happened:
Right ankle sprain. Didn’t return to the game, but sprains aren’t usually that serious. Ideally he misses no more than two games; unfortunately, the next two are contests the Celtics badly need him for.
It quite honestly might have been a series of Brad Wanamaker plays—a stepback triple followed by a nice pass to Kemba for a layup—that truly daggered this game (although in blowouts, the “dagger” can come at like, the 6:13 mark.) Beyond some playing-out-the-string play, it was decided, and the Celtics pulled off a defensive-driven win against a team that, unlike the past few years, was no pushover.