Rapid Recap: Smart’s record-breaking triples can’t lead Celtics past Suns


Rapid Recap is designed for the busiest of Celtics fans. Whether you can’t stay awake to read 10 paragraphs or your hangover is just too much, Rapid Recap tells the timeline of the game in only a minute or two.

With no Kemba Walker or Jaylen Brown for tonight’s game, it wasn’t going to be easy for the Boston Celtics, even against a Phoenix Suns team that’s come waaaaaay back to earth after a hot start. Another offensive crapfest early on meant the Cs had to keep trying to make comebacks that they weren’t equipped to complete sans Walker and Brown. In fairness, no one expects career 29% shooter Mikal Bridges to drop 26 on you, but Devin Booker (39-10-9) and Deandre Ayton (26-15-2) also ran wild to the tune of a 123-119 final score.

Marcus Smart did that thing where he tries to keep the Celtics alive single-handedly, and it almost worked: He canned 11 triples out of 22 attempts to break the franchise record, and went 13-25 overall for 37 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals. Jayson Tatum also went for it on both ends of the floor (26-10-2-3-1), and Gordon Hayward racked up 22 despite poor shooting and weird hesitance.

It began in expected fashion with offensive struggles. They were getting wide-open looks due to the weakness of the Suns’ defense, and absolutely nothing was going in.

The Suns have strong offense, as one would expect from a squad with Devin Booker on it, and they jumped out to a quick lead. (Though it’s worth noting Boston did well defending around the rim. If they hadn’t, the lead would’ve been far greater.)

Things improved toward the end as the shots started falling and the Celtics were able to bully the Suns more effectively:

Phoenix managed to stay just a touch ahead of Boston throughout much of the next frame. The Cs reached deep in the bench and managed to find some gold. Well, mostly gold:

And Tatum, coming off an uneven game against Milwaukee, had yet another Dope Moment:


But still in a lot of ways the first half could be characterized thusly:

Marcus Smart kept the Celtics alive singlehandedly with six triples, and they were lucky to be down just 9 at the half (60-51 Suns).

In the third, the tandem scoring threat of Booker and Ayton threatened to overwhelm again. But the Cs stayed very much in the mix, in no small part because of Tatum’s energy on defense and the high-flying Daniel Theis:

But the real story was Smart, of course.

It just…wasn’t…enough. In these recent losses, it sometimes seems like nothing is, and unsurprisingly it was 87-76 Suns with 12 minutes to go.

The fourth began like more of the same, though you could tell the Suns were beginning to get a little bit cocky—and then the Celtics really caught them slipping on a series of lazy possessions and shrunk the deficit:


I should stress that Hayward’s triple was, like, from typical Curry distance, for what that’s worth. Unfortunately it wasn’t worth a lot, as Dario Saric and sophomore Mikal Bridges immediately answered with treys of their own. Nothing’s easy. Back to a double-digit Suns lead.

Sure, there was SMARF:

Things would ultimately come down to the wire in the most nail-biting fashion. While Smart blew apart the Celtics record for triples in a game and almost completed the comeback on his own, there were too many other blown opportunities—Hayward’s missed layup out of a perfect ATO, fouling the wrong Suns in the final seconds, a massive deficit in rebounds—for this to be anything but the loss it was.

Box score

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