Before this meeting of the NBA’s conference leaders, it was natural to expect 48 minutes of intensity, grit and drama. This was anything but that.
It seems the red-hot Boston Celtics went into Phoenix with a point to prove, completely dominating the Suns in a 125-98 win that was never in doubt. The Celts led by as many as 45 points in the third quarter, registered 29 assists, and shot 48.5% for the game while holding the Suns to 39.8%.
Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum led the attack with 25 points apiece, and Malcolm Brogdon added 16 (7-9 shooting) in his return from a one-game absence due to illness. Devin Booker led the Suns with 17, but shot just 6-17 while dealing with foul trouble.
The 21-5 Celtics have now won three straight and eight of their last nine. They’re also 7-0 versus the West.
Blake Griffin (9 points, 9 rebounds) started his second straight game as Al Horford was scratched after being placed in health and safety protocols. Phoenix welcomed back Chris Paul after he missed a month with a heel injury.
The opening minutes were fast-paced, led by Grant Williams scoring Boston’s first seven points. Paul didn’t look at all rusty, getting three quick assists off pick-and-roll actions. Paul’s jumper put the Suns ahead, 16-13, but the Celtics exploded for a 17-2 run. Brogdon scored eight of those points on a pair of threes and a patented driving reverse layup. Suns were 0-8 from the arc, helping Boston to a 31-21 lead at the horn.
Luke Kornet chipped in, too.
It was Tatum’s turn in the second quarter, scoring a fast seven points to extend the lead to 16. The Suns tried to regroup, but a 7-0 Boston burst – capped off by a Grant “corner office” three – pushed the margin to 49-30 and forced the reeling Suns to take their second timeout of the quarter. The carnage continued as Marcus Smart assisted on a Derrick White trey and a Brown jumper. The lead was 24.
It got worse for Phoenix. Jaylen converted not one, not two, but three and-one three-point plays. Adding to the Suns’ woes, Booker picked up his third and fourth personal fouls. Brogdon’s layup just before halftime gave the Celtics a stunning 69-42 lead. The Cs shot 50.9%, had 14 assists and tallied 12 points off nine Suns turnovers. Phoenix was held to 35.4% from the floor and was a wretched 1-16 from deep.
The Celtics continued their assault by opening the second half with a 19-7 run, highlighted by two Griffin triples. The lead was an unbelievable 88-49 with still 7:41 to play in the quarter. After a timeout, Booker was hit with his fifth foul, but stayed in because why not? Soon after, Jaylen drained a three and the Celtics were ahead by 45 points.
Suns coach Monty Williams surrendered with five minutes left in the third, subbing out all five starters. The quarter finally came to a merciful end with Boston ahead, 104-65.
He's got that pep in his step pic.twitter.com/4Nruaj9DC3— Boston Celtics (@celtics) December 8, 2022
The fourth quarter was a formality required by league rules.
After three games in four nights, the Celtics now have a two-day break before visiting the Golden State Warriors on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. EST. Their first meeting since last season’s Finals will be televised nationally on ABC.