(Dessert first tonight folks. You deserve it. We just beat the best team in the NBA.)
3:33 remaining in the 4th and Tied at 100
(Amare Stoudemire left the game with 5 fouls at 6:44. This plus no Steve Nash all game was certainly scenarios that worked out for the C's)
Delonte West reported in during the timeout. The C's turned the ball over as PP threw a pass to no one and PHX headed down the floor on the break. They converted a layup and now led 102-100. Quentin Richardson then drove on LaFrentz, who was trying to cover him as result of a a switch with Ricky Davis. QRich got to the hoop and missed the shot but cleaned up his own mess to put the Suns up 104-100 and Doc called a timeout with roughly 2:05 remaining.
Walker scored from the post right out of the timeout to make it 104-102. PHX called a :20 timeout with 1:45 left. However, the shot they got ended with a PP rebound. He then pushed it up to 'Toine who threw a hell of a stop and turn soft hook, going back to the middle. TIE GAME 104 ALL. 1:15 remaining. Marion scored just 8 seconds later to put the Suns back up 106-104. Banks dribbled out of bounce on the next possession. 'Toine came up with a nice defensive stand on Former Celtic Joe Johnson. JJ's drive was blocked by 'Toine and pushed up the floor by PP, where he was fouled and went to the line to convert both FT's. TIE GAME 106 ALL with :38.6 remaining.
Banks redeemed the shoddy handle incident with another nice defensive effort. He blocked JJ's 17ft pull-up jumper. The C's got the last real possession and 'Toine couldn't get the shot to fall.
After 4 Quarters: 106-106.
The Suns won the tip and after some movement around the perimeter, RD got caught reaching on a Barbosa drive up the middle. Leandro hit both FT's and the Suns led 108-106 with 4:41 remaining. Stephen Hunter then clanked his 2 FT's (Not really surprising from a 51% FT shooter, but I'm sure PHX didn't like the timing of the misses). On the other end, Hunter rejected a PP offering out to a waiting RD out past the arc. RD got off a snap pass to a wide open AW down under the basket for an easy score. TIE GAME 108 ALL.
'Toine then got called for an offensive foul. Hunter then only hit 1 of 2 FT's after PP fouled him under the basket. With 2:18 remaining, the Suns lead 109-108. Then one of the plays of the game occured. I'll get to more of this later, but just to be blunt, the C's were passing very well tonight. This play saw several passes around the defense to an open Delonte West. He feigned like he was passing again and then pulled up and hit the big 3pter. 111-109 Celtics.
Antoine collected the Suns shot attempt and got the ball to RD on the wing. Ricky got the very quick iso against his man and went right to the hole to draw a foul. After hitting his freebies, the Celtics lead 113-109. It looked like PP and RD had tied up QRich on the ensuing possession, but Ricky got tagged for the reaching foul. QRich only hit 1 of 2 at the line. RD then hit Walker cutting under the basket and the Celtics now lead 115-110.
Rookie Spotlight play: Delonte West - The Celtics stole the ball and 'Toine got off a shot that missed. DWest went in there banging for the rebound. It was knocked loose from everyone and West gave chase. It looked like he had collected it when a Suns player jarred it loose, sending Delonte instantly hurling his boding after it. He pounced on the ball and called timeout just before being landed on by several diving Suns players. It was a great hustle play, not to mention that Delonte's head paid the price for it in the final scramble. (This was the second time his head took abuse from PHX players, but we'll get to that later. Just know that during the timeout, they had ice on the side of Delonte face and chin.)
Paul Pierce hit 2 more FT's to make the score 117-110. Without explanation and before the ball could even be in-bounds by his team, the Suns coached was ejected from the game. PP hit the Technical FT with :19.9 remaining and the C's comfortable ahead 118-110. Walker hit 2 FT's to get us to our final Celtics tally and Former Celtic "I Love Waltah" McCarty hit a meaningless 3pter for PHX with a few ticks left on the clock.
Final Score: 120 - 113 Celtics Win. West Coast Trip Over. Next Game Weds. Vs Lakers.
Ok, So I spoiled the ending. If the action was that plentiful with the little bit of time I just covered, imagine a whole game that way. This was a great game to watch. As was predicted, we had the better defensive team, but that was only a modest distinction tonight. Here's some thoughts:
Antoine Walker spent his second game as a Celtic continuing to give his critics very little ammunition to use against him. 33pts, 13 rbs, 6 assts, 2blks. If you got to watch the game, Yes, those stats where just as pretty to watch unfold.
**You'll see this clip on SportsCenter tomorrow, I guarantee it.
Rookie Spotlight Play: Marcus Banks - There are times when Marcus Banks' phenomenal defensive talents seem at thier peak. On this play around 5:38, Marcus saw a pass across the paint into the low post, with S.Hunter on the recieving end. Hunter collected the pass and went up to attempt a 1 handed dunk. Banks slipped across the paint towards him, elevated, and challenged the shot, stuffing him straight up and eventually pushing the ball free as they started to head to earth. Tommy and Mike were yelling: Banks vs the 7FTer!!!! It was a hell of a block, timed near perfect. It absolutely was a display of athleticism in him getting up there to get his hand on that ball to stuff him. Good moment. It's bound to be a Play of Day Candidate on at least one of the networks sports shows tommorrow.
I'm sure people also want to know about the "2nd time" reference to Delonte's head trauma. With around 4:30 left in the 1st quarter, Delonte passed to AW down in the left block and then cut across the middle and was fed in return. He checked for paratroopers by giving a solid pumpfake. Airman 1st Class Amare Stoudemire came flying down on him, sending both men to the floor. It appeared as though Stoudemire slowed his fall by grabbing Delonte around the head and neck area on his way down. As Delonte got up, he pushed Amare away near his face. It's hard to say if it would have escalated on it's own or not, but 'Toine didn't wait to find out and came barrelling in to seperate the 2, which of course caused the Suns players to try to "help seperate" people also. A little shoving ensued and 4 techincals were issued to JJ, AW, DW, Amare.
I've talked alot about Delonte and Banks because I wanted to show that while both are still prone to thier "quirks" at times, those times seemed to be lessening in frequency and both these kids seem to be stepping their game up a notch. This stretch of games might very well be Delonte's coming out party, but Banks seems to be coming along for the ride also. The way these 2 kids are playing right now, I'm not as nervous about the possibility of having to turn the reigns over to them, should GP not be in the plans.
All in all, it was a good night of basketball.
If we could get the defense to step it up a notch or 2 more and the team I saw out there tonight, I would feel confident sending into the playoffs. They passed and kept moving on offense very well. We had 4 players in double figure scoring: Davis (16), West(18), Pierce(25), Walker (33). With the exception of Blount, Jefferson, and Perkins, everyone who played had at least 2 assists. Double-Doubles by our 2 Stars to lead the cause.
No Player of the Game because this one goes to the TEAM.