Boston took to the hardwood for their second scrimmage game of the NBA restart, facing Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns, ending the game victorious 117-103.
The headline before the game was Kemba Walker’s return to the lineup following his absence in the previous game against Oklahoma City. However, it was the effort on the defensive end that sparked the Celtics’ blowout win. Boston started strong, altering Booker’s opening shot due to some explosive rotations and a solid contest from Jayson Tatum.
Jaylen Brown got the opening bucket for the Celtics, with a smooth driving jumper, while Kemba Walker followed with his first bucket in the bubble shortly after. The Celtics continued to show intense defense early in the game, holding Phoenix 0-for-6 shooting early, until Dario Saric scored their opening two points off a mismatch on Hayward.
As the quarter continued, the Celtics defensive intensity began to wane, as the Suns went on a 13-2 run. Frustrations began to boil over, as Jaylen Brown received a technical with five minutes remaining, following what he perceived was a foul when attacking the basket.
Stevens began to make adjustments on the defensive end, trying to jolt some energy back into his team, testing them out in a zone coverage similar to how he did against Oklahoma in their last game. The Celtics began to slow down the Suns; however, they were missing a scoring punch.
Tatum’s poor shooting from the Oklahoma game had carried into this game, as he went 0-for-4 in his first stint on the floor. After returning to the floor later in the quarter, Stevens had schemed to feed Tatum the ball to get him going. Tatum got to the line shortly after being reintroduced into the lineup, sinking both of them. What followed was a quick barrage of Tatum buckets.
As the second quarter began, Stevens started to go deeper into his rotation. Semi Ojeleye and Grant Williams both saw decent minutes, and both performed admirably. The Celtics offensive system became heavily predicated on the high pick-and-roll, with Daniel Theis operating as the roll man.
Opening the scoring for the quarter, Walker came off a Theis screen, hitting a three-point jump shot that Celtics fans became all too used to seeing during the regular season.
The Celtics began to show signs of life on defense, making life difficult for the Suns, both on the perimeter and the interior. The game continued to flow, with both teams offering a scoring punch, until Tatum injected new life into the Celtics.
Jumping the passing lane and getting out in transition, Tatum began to look like he was finding his mid-season form.
However, while Tatum showed the signs of life that were missing during the Oklahoma game, Jaylen Brown was providing the Celtics with an efficient scoring outlet throughout the half. As the second quarter ended, Brown had notched 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the field and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc.
Defensively, the Celtics ended the quarter by reverting to a 2-3 zone defensive scheme for the final two minutes. With a lineup of Marcus Smart, Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Grant Williams, their zone defense was stifling, as Williams began to leave his imprint on the game.
Hayward and Brown were the primary weapons the Celtics utilized during this quarter, with Hayward showing his versatility by scoring from the mid-range and deep, while Brown was a thorn in the Sun’s side whenever he drove inside.
Outside of Hayward and Brown, both Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum also put some good work on both ends of the floor, with the former showing some excellent touches around the rim when attacking closeouts.
As the quarter was drawing to an end, the Celtics began to reach deeper into their bench, with rookie Romeo Langford entering the contest for the first time with three minutes left in the quarter. Carsen Edwards replaced Smart with a shade over two minutes remaining, while Robert Williams was the next rotation player to see the floor for the first time, with 1:30 remaining in the quarter.
To start the fourth and final quarter, the Celtics went with their bench unit, with Brad Wanamaker, Carsen Edwards, Romeo Langford, Semi Ojeleye, and Robert Williams taking the floor. In the first three minutes of the quarter, the Celtics defense held the Suns to just one point, while posting eight of their own.
The rotation of bench players provided the Celtics with some good moments during the final quarter. Langford flashed his potential as both a spot-up scorer and slasher, while Edwards displayed ability as a facilitator, also getting on the scoreboard when driving inside.
Jaylen Brown finished as the contests top scorer with 21 points, while Tatum lead in rebounding with nine. Kemba Walker scored six points in nine minutes, and Grant Williams displayed some terrific basketball for multiple stretches. Here is the box score from today’s game, courtesy of NBA Stats.