It was an extremely slow start for the Celtics, who put up just 20 points in the first quarter - their lowest total in the starting period all season. They held the Suns to just 24, but Phoenix quickly picked up the pace, outscoring Boston 33-24 in the second.
Boston failed to find any sort of rhythm on the offensive end, shooting just 15-of-40 from the field and 6-of-21 from distance in the first half. Jayson Tatum, in particular, really struggled. He didn’t score his first points until the 3:35 mark in the second quarter, leaving Jaylen Brown to carry the load in the scoring column (14 first-half points). Brown ended the night with a team-high 27 points.
All-Star JB starts the game off with 7 straight points pic.twitter.com/k6rkTKmFzB— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) February 4, 2023
Tatum shot just 3-of-15 from the floor and 3-of-10 from distance.
Malcolm Brogdon was also instrumental in keeping the Celtics afloat, as his first-half shot creation led to 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting. With Tatum struggling, he provided Boston with a much-needed second option.
With Devin Booker sidelined, it was Mikal Bridges who stepped up for the Suns, pouring in 25 points. Chris Paul also chipped in with 15 points, six boards, and eight assists.
Phoenix was up by as many as 20 points in the second quarter, but the Celtics battled back and cut the lead down to 13 by halftime, and midway through the third quarter, Boston was back within five. Tatum’s seven free throws did a number on the Suns, as he dropped 10 points in the third to lead the Celtics in scoring.
Despite Tatum’s free-throw extravaganza, defense reigned supreme in the third quarter, as Boston held the Suns to just 17 points. Phoenix shot just 7-of-22 from the field and didn’t record a single three-point make on five attempts. The Celtics capitalized on their defense, cutting into the deficit by 12 points.
An 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter put Phoenix back up by nine points, erasing most of Boston’s hard work in the third. And despite a relatively quick timeout from Joe Mazzulla, the Suns continued to pour on buckets early in the fourth, extending their lead to as many as 13 points in under three minutes.
With roughly eight minutes to go in the game, Robert Williams blocked Ish Wainwright, sending the ball flying into the stands. Brown came down the court after Boston finished off the possession with a stop and picked up a much-needed and-one bucket, giving life to an otherwise disinterested TD Garden crowd.
But despite the spark, Boston was unable to capitalize. They continued to play stellar defense, highlighted by an improbable transition stop by Derrick White, but their offense couldn’t match the production on the other end. Boston’s great defensive efforts were unfortunately outweighed by a complete lack of offensive flow.
The Celtics managed to cut the lead down to six with 2:19 to go, but they just couldn’t find enough offense to cap off the comeback. Al Horford had a chance to get it down to three with 1:51 left in the game, but he missed an open three, and that was the final straw for Boston.
A 21-point fourth quarter capped off an extremely disappointing offensive night for the Celtics, wasting an impressive defensive showing. The loss marked their fourth in six games, as Boston moved to 37-16 on the season.
Their next game will be on Monday, February 6, against the Detroit Pistons. That one tips off at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time.