Slow starts. Marcus Smart steadying the ship offensively. Suit jackets along the sideline. An obscure player dropping a career performance. Mikal Bridges followed the same route Ish Smith, Sekou Doumbouya and Donte DiVincenzo followed lately in Celtics losses on Saturday.
Not much changed for a Celtics team stuck in a midseason slog — 2-6 over their last eight — against the Suns as a sign welcomed Aron Baynes back after Boston dealt him to Phoenix in June.
Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown sat, though offense would be no issue as Marcus Smart hoisted 22 three-pointers and drilled 11 — something no Celtic had done before. Isaiah Thomas in 2016 and Antoine Walker two times between 2001-02 hit nine to establish the previous record.
Phoenix led by double-figures for most of the night after building a 22-10 lead through the midway point of the first quarter. Boston pulled within two early in the second quarter and would only draw that close again in the final moments of the game as desperation heaves by Smart and Jayson Tatum fell.
Within 114-111 with 37 seconds left, Bridges made a more concerted effort, blowing by his defender in the corner toward Daniel Theis in the lane. Theis couldn’t contest his fadeaway from 10 feet, which rolled to the front of the rim and fell back in for his 26th point. Smart threw a perfect heave on an in-bounds play on the other end, Hayward rose to the rim uncovered and botched the layup. The Suns won 123-119.