The Boston Celtics lost to the Phoenix Suns, 100-94, as they fall to 19-36 on the year. Rajon Rondo was a monster with 18 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds, but he was unable to lead the Celtics to victory despite a terrific fourth quarter effort.
The Celtics trailed 52-50 after a sloppy, yet entertaining first half of basketball with the Suns. Chris Johnson came off the bench and sparked the C's with a pair of three-pointers on his way to seven points. However, 14 turnovers and terrible free throw shooting by Phoenix is what kept Boston in the game despite their 35.3 percent shooting percentage.
Former Celtic Gerald Green was terrific scoring the ball, with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting; he also had an unbelievable dunk in transition, Check out the embedded video to see for yourself; it doesn't look like he would've stopped flying if the rim hadn't stopped him, huh?
Everyone says it, but it's true: Basketball is a game of runs. Boston opened up the second half with a 21-to-9 run, and led 70-61. But then Phoenix stormed back, closing the period with an explosive 15-to-1 run. They led 76-61 at the start of the fourth quarter; at the time, Brandon Bass led the Celtics with 18 points, and Goron Dragic had 17 for the Suns.
Phoenix extended their run to 20-to-1 in the final period until Rajon Rondo made his return to the court. The Captain settled down the offense, and started making plays for himself and his teammates to keep the Celtics competitive. Not enough can be said about the impact he made on the game, with his game-high plus-16. Boston trailed between two and five points for most of the fourth quarter, but the Suns stretched their lead to six with under two minutes remaining.
At that point, Gerald Wallace, a 43 percent free throw shooter, got to the line and knocked down two free throws to cut into the lead, at 92-88. Unfortunately, Channing Frye responded by hitting his fourth three-pointer of the night, giving the Suns a seven point lead with only 80 seconds to go in the game. After a few sloppy plays by the Suns, the Celtics managed to sink another four-straight free throws to cut the lead.
Down three with 45 seconds left, the Suns inbounded the ball and the Celtics decided to trap as they crossed half court. But they overplayed on the trap and Phoenix passed to a wide-open player on the baseline for an easy dunk. When it seemed like the game was all wrapped up, the Suns made another bonehead play, as P.J. Tucker fouled Jeff Green, who went to the line and hit another two free throws. Boston trailed 97-94 with 30.7 seconds left.
Again, the Suns did everything they could hand the game away, as Goron Dragic attempted a difficult layup only five seconds into their possession. The Celtics grabbed the rebound with 25 seconds to go, down by only three. The Celtics decided to go for two, as Rajon Rondo slashed to the basket, but he missed the layup, which all but ended the game. After a few more free throws, the Celtics fell to the Suns, 100-94.
Rajon Rondo is special
How does he do it? In only his 11th game after returning from a torn ACL, point guard Rajon Rondo looks like he's almost back to full strength, finishing with another double-double. Rondo still lacks some of his explosiveness when he drives to the basket, and when he fights through screens on defense, but everything else is back. He dished out 10 assists over the course of the night, and he was consistently able to manipulate the defense and create chances for his teammates.
In the fourth quarter he also showcased his new and improved jumper, as he hit a few silky smooth shots to keep the Celtics in the game. On the night, he had 18 points on 7-for-22 shooting. Rondo also pitched in with seven rebounds, as he nears his first triple-double of the season.
Bass rises, Green falls
Brandon Bass was a force tonight, with 18 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks, in 33 minutes of action tonight. It seemed like the team played more effectively whenever he was on the court, since he played with the fire and energy fans are so used to seeing from him.
On the other hand, Jeff Green really struggled after he had a very good eight-point first quarter. Suns' forward P.J. Tucker shut him down for portions of the game, especially during that stretch late in the third quarter when they build a large lead. Green did finish with 17 points, but if this is his last game with the Celtics, it won't be a good memory since he was unable to come through when they needed him, like he has at other points this season.
The bench was a letdown
Boston's bench was unable to keep up with the Suns, as they had a combined minus-52 on the night. They shot 7-for-23 on their way to only 21 lackluster points. The defense never seemed to be in-sync, either, especially when Kris Humphries was at center. What is normally a fairly cohesive unit, failed to stop Phoenix from making a number of extended runs.
It is worth pointing out that Kelly Olynyk seems to be gaining confidence, despite a 3-of-10 shooting performance. He was very decisive in his actions, whether it was drives to the rim or shots from the perimeter. This will only help him going forward, in a year that is more about development than anything else.
Tomorrow's the trade deadline, so there's that. The Celtics will continue their four-game West Coast swing on Friday, when they face the Los Angeles Lakers.