The Celtics set the tone early with their defense tonight. Bradley and Smart each picked up a steal in the first few minutes. Marcus Smart came up with yet another diving steal that led to an assist. Avery Bradley was unstoppable in the first quarter. He scored 14 points on perfect shooting, and really carried the Celtics offense.
Isaiah Thomas got off to a slow start shooting, but he did a much better job of finding his teammates in his early minutes. Phoenix was very aggressive in doubling him out of pick and rolls, and Thomas made them pay with some nice passes. It only took seven minutes for him to match his assist total from last night.
Boston took a five point lead into the second and caught fire on offense immediately. They made seven out of their first eight shots and really attacked Phoenix in transition. Their three point shooting was a far cry from last night's disaster against the Lakers. The Celtics made six in row at one point, with everybody getting in on the action. Jae Crowder made two, Isaiah Thomas found his stroke, and even Gerald Wallace made one! This was a welcomed sight after his year long sabbatical from making them.
The lead hovered around 17 for most of the quarter. Isaiah Thomas' passing was instrumental in building the lead, but he wasn't the only one to stand out. James Young played a substantial role in the offensive explosion too. He looked more comfortable out there and even had some plays drawn up for him. We also got to see a brief look at the three guard offense for Boston. That might be something to look for once Stevens gets a better idea of the new rotations.
After all was said and done, the Celtics hung 41 points on Phoenix in the second quarter to finish with 67 in the half. 67 points in a half! Very fitting that it was Star Wars night in Phoenix, because Boston's offense was out of this world. (sorry for that) The defense wasn't awesome, but dropping 41 points in a quarter makes up for plenty of problems.
After such incredible shooting, a letdown was to be expected in the second half. Phoenix made a noticeable effort to get out in transition. Boston had a few lazy efforts getting back, and the Suns took advantage of that. A 16-2 Phoenix run cut the lead down six points halfway through the third. Boston tightened up on defense towards the end of the quarter. Tyler Zeller was a steady presence inside and affected multiple shots. Phoenix missed 13 field goals in a row, but Boston couldn't really capitalize on the other end. They only led by 10 after the third.
Boston started the fourth with the Isaiah Thomas led lineup that dominated most of the second. On four consecutive possessions, they committed four turnovers. Needless to say, this would not be another 40 point quarter. Thomas was pulled quickly and Smart retuned to the game. Boston's offense was anemic to say the least, and Phoenix moved within three points. Brandon Knight, T.J. Warren, and P.J. Tucker were the driving forces for the Suns comeback. They scored the first 15 points for the Suns in the quarter. The Celtics offense was just painful to watch in the fourth. After going over five minutes with just one made field goal, Thomas found Bradley in transition to give the Celtics a little breathing room. Bradley's three gave Boston a six point lead with three minutes left. After making two straight threes, Eric Bledsoe cut the lead down to just one. Then Isaiah Thomas took over. He converted a huge four point play to put them back up by five. Thomas then stole the ball and made another layup to give Boston a seven point lead with just 40 seconds left. The Celtics held on in the final seconds to get the win. Thomas and Bradley finished with 21 and 23 points respectively. Thomas didn't have the most efficient offensive game against his old team, but it's looking like the Celtics now have a player to go to in crunch time.
After losing to an awful Lakers team last night, this was a good victory. Phoenix is fighting for the 8 seed in the west, but the Celtics beat them to finish off their road trip. Now Brad Stevens has some time to fully incorporate his new players into the team. It will be interesting to see how they finish out this season.