And for the C’s, it all started on the defensive end.
The Celtics held the high-powered Phoenix Suns, which came into the matchup boasting the fourth best scoring offense in the NBA by averaging 117.6 points per game, to a season-low scoring output as the C’s stellar defensive effort led the way to a 99-85 road victory Monday.
The Celtics showcased terrific hustle on the defense end, totaling 12 steals against the Suns, who were minus Ricky Rubio as the passing extraordinaire point guard was a late scratch due to back spasms, along with blocking five shots. The Suns had only two players score in double figures and finished shooting 41.6 percent from the floor along with a putrid 27.8 percent showing from 3-point range.
“Defensively we just stepped up,” said Kemba Walker. “We were able to make some plays. Just really scrambling around, being in the right spots and it just translated to some offense.”
The C’s defense helped create separation, especially at the end of the first half with Grant Williams on the floor. The Celtics went on a 23-6 run over the final 6:48 of the second quarter to open up a double-digit lead going into halftime.
Williams gave the Celtics a strong presence on the defensive end and played bigger than his height by blocking shots from Kelly Oubre Jr. and Frank Kaminsky during the tear to give the C’s a big boost.
“Grant Williams really came and gave us a spark off the bench,” said Jayson Tatum, who scored a game-high 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. “Just stuff he does that doesn’t show up in the stat sheet that really helps our team and gives us energy and life.”
The defensive intensity was where it needed to be to hold a potent offense with a high volume scorer in Devin Booker in check — it was just two seasons ago that Booker scored 70 points versus the C’s, but he tallied just 20 on Monday, five points below his average — and it was especially critical to put together the defensive performance Boston did after it came off just its second loss of the season.
“It’s a great win,” Walker said. “When you have opportunities to bounce back and learn from mistakes and you actually come out and do it, it just feels good, and it let’s you know about your team and the guys you’re playing with. We have a special group and for us to not hang our heads on that loss yesterday and really come out tonight and play against a really good team, here at home, and come out with a win, that was big-time.”