The Suns battled for every loose ball tonight, and created loose balls with sheer effort.

With Rajon Rondo out due to injury and the Celtics only a 90 PPG team with him, the Suns were set up for defensive success, but they exceeded expectations by holding the Celtics to only 71 points on the road in TD Garden tonight. Marcin Gortat was easily the Suns best player with 24 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks and only 2 personal fouls. Gortat led all scorers tonight.

The Celtics "Big Three" tallied only 36 points combined as the Suns played a stifling, ball-hawking defense that is foreign to most Suns fans. Sure, the Celtics are aging and their offense was discombobulated with Rondo out, but the Suns played defense with a ton of energy.

The Suns starting lineup, which again included Ronnie Price and Markieff Morris, played the Celtics to about a draw, but the game changed when the benches came in. Every Suns backup was a + in +/- tonight, led by Jared Dudley's 12 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Five players scored in double figures for the Celtics, but they shot only 41% from the field with 18 turnovers and the Suns held the rebounding edge 36-25. The Celtics leading scorer, Ray Allen, put up only 14 points on 4-8 shooting.

Elston Turner, take a bow. This was a Suns defensive effort we've rarely seen.

Jump it for more of the goodness.

Gortat was the hero tonight, just as he was when the Suns beat the Celtics last year. He scored 10 points to go with 4 rebounds in the first 7 minutes of the game on 7-11 shooting. Nash and Hill were ironmen again, logging 38 and 35 minutes, respectively, and had more impact on the game than their combined 20 points show. Nash had 9 assists, which is a ho-hum night from him, but he provided stability when the team needed it, and Hill played his trademark excellent defense. Hill blocked two shots and had four steals, as the Suns seemed to populate the Celtics passing lanes all night long.

The Suns offense was a little off, since defense is the Celtics calling card and they brought it, and committed 21 turnovers of their own. But when they needed a shot, they got it. After starting the second half slowly, as the Celtics went on a 12-2 run, the Suns righted the ship with a 12-0 run bridging the end of the 3rd and start of the 4th.

This could be called an ugly game with all the turnovers and poor shooting, but a lot of that ugly offense was due to the defenses filling the passing lanes and contesting shots. Historically, the Suns haven't usually won these defensive slugfests; they did tonight. With two straight wins, this road trip isn't looking so bad after all.

Game notes:

  • Ronnie Price as a starter might seem like a stretch and his game has obvious holes, but he plays hard every minute he's on the court, hit two 3s in the first half, showed tenacious defense, and took some of the ball-handling pressure off of Nash in his 29 minutes.
  • Markieff Morris needs more time to adjust. He started out this season on fire, and he's obviously a key part of the team's future, but Morris showed plenty of rookie moments tonight with 0 points and 4 turnovers.The man's a rookie and will have his ups and downs. Be patient.
  • Sebastian Telfair played like a credible backup PG tonight, with 4 points, 2 steals and a +7 in 10 minutes. Like Price, he plays fast and hard, and we can excuse him occasionally trying to do too much in limited minutes.
  • Grant Hill is playing closer to the BAMF we all know and love. His defense is still outstanding, although Paul Pierce did blow by him a couple of times in the first half. More importantly, he looks to be regaining his legs and explosiveness.
  • The best part about Ronnie Price starting is that Jared Dudley was back to his D and 3 off the bench ways. It's impossible not to appreciate Dudley's desire to be a starter, but he's average at best there. As an energy player off the bench, there are few I'd rather have.
  • Kevin Garnett? Oh yeah, that guy. He was sort of a non-factor in 33 minutes, scoring 10 points, pulling down 5 boards, and logging a -9 (worst of all Celtics). But hey, he didn't punch anyone in the testicles so we can call that progress, I guess.

This road trip was looking like the end of the Suns season, but the players aren't ready for that to be the case. 2-2 so far. Mavs up next, which will obviously be a challenge. But bring on some more beatable opponents after that, and let's see what these Suns can do. Are they good enough? Maybe, maybe not. They won't be cheated in the effort to find out.


Photo

This was ugly? No, I think this effort is sexy as hell. Celebrate a win over the Celtics! I love me some Marcin Gortat!





Rondo or no Rondo? Does it really matter? It's not like he's Steve Nash.

Let's start a win streak!!!!!


Phoenix Suns 79, Boston Celtics 71 Stability is the reason the Boston Celtics and the Phoenix Suns have remained perennial playoff contenders. It’s also a painful reminder that all good things...

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Grant Hill will be the oldest player on the floor tonight, but he'll see plenty of fellow 30-somethings when he looks over at the other side.

When we previewed the Suns current 5-game road trip, the fourth game of the trip against the Boston Celtics looked to be one of the more difficult matchups. After all, in the four seasons since the Celtics acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to complete their new "Big Three", they've won at least 60 games twice, at least 50 games in the two other seasons, won the Finals once and narrowly lost in another Finals appearance.

This has been one of the league's elite teams. But the key phrase in that statement might just be "has been", as the aging Celtics are off to a slow start at 5-8, and talk of "blowing up the team" is swirling after it took a game against the lowly Raptors for the Celtics to snap a 5-game losing streak.

The Suns broke a 5-game losing streak of their own with a win over the stumbling New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden Wednesday by holding the Knicks' wannabe dynamic duo of Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony to a combined 12-44 shooting from the field. Before that the Suns were in a free fall, dropping from the doorstep of the Western Conference's top 8 teams down to #13, losing to good teams and bad alike along the way.

Which of these old, floundering teams is ready to gain a little momentum with a second consecutive win?

Follow the jump for more.

The Suns and Celtics split their two games last season, with the Suns laying waste to the Celtics 88-71 in Phoenix last January 28th in one of their best performances of the season. When the Suns went to Boston, the Celtics returned the favor with a 115-103 blowout win.

Marcin Gortat led the Suns in their win with a 19 point, 17 rebound outing and Vince Carter scored 17 (yes, he did have a few good games for the Suns), but the most memorable event in the game was Kevin Garnett's classless low blow to Channing Frye's nether regions as Frye was landing from a jump shot. In case you have forgotten, watch this. (Take special note of that blowhard jackass former ESPN analyst and current Warriors coach Mark Jackson inexplicably defending Garnett):

Last season was mostly of the soul-sucking nature for Suns fans. There wasn't much to get too excited or disappointed about. It was just bleh. But this....THIS!.....My blood was boiling watching this go down, and I remember that game as one of the sweetest victories of the season. I might have even used a few naughty words in the game thread to describe my feelings about Garnett, and those feelings have not gone away AT ALL. His team is getting whipped and his response is to punch a defenseless opponent in the groin? Garnett might be a future HOF-er, but he's a punk for moves like that. He's one of the players I hate the most in the NBA and I'm frothing at the possibility the Suns can stick it to him again.

Channing's mother Karen Frye wasn't happy about Garnett's cowardly act either, as she explained to our own Eutychus when he asked her about the incident on Suns media day last month.

The Celtics got us back in that second game last year. This is the only time we face them this year, and could be the last time we ever face this core group of players. So, win this F@*#-ing game, Suns. Win it for Karen Frye, win it for all of us. I want Kevin Garnett to walk off that court completely pissed off.

Now, on to the game details.

This year's version of the Celtics continues the slow, grinding style we're accustomed to seeing from them, as they're 27th in the league in pace and the average score of their games so far is 90.2-91.0. All of the numbers show them to be a thoroughly average team: they're 19th in O-Rating and 16th in D-Rating. For a team that's been a championship contender, that is quite a drop. As Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen age deeper into their 30s, point guard Rajon Rondo has become more of their true franchise player. Rondo leads the team in assists and is second in scoring.


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Ray Allen 12 34.9 5.2 10.3 50.0 2.8 4.9 55.9 2.5 2.8 88.2 0.6 2.4 3.0 2.3 1.9 0.8 0.0 1.4 15.6
Rajon Rondo 13 36.3 5.8 11.2 51.7 0.2 0.7 33.3 3.2 5.4 60.0 1.5 3.5 5.1 9.4 3.8 1.7 0.0 2.5 15.0
Paul Pierce 10 31.5 4.6 11.9 38.7 1.8 4.1 43.9 3.9 4.7 83.0 0.7 4.2 4.9 3.9 2.5 0.7 0.3 2.0 14.9
Kevin Garnett 13 30.6 5.4 11.4 47.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.7 3.2 83.3 1.5 6.0 7.5 2.5 2.1 0.4 0.8 2.2 13.5
Brandon Bass 13 27.5 4.8 10.1 48.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.7 2.3 73.3 1.6 4.6 6.2 0.6 0.7 0.3 0.7 2.2 11.4
Mickael Pietrus 5 19.6 2.8 6.4 43.8 2.2 5.4 40.7 0.4 0.8 50.0 0.0 1.2 1.2 0.0 0.2 0.8 0.2 2.2 8.2
Keyon Dooling 9 18.3 2.1 4.6 46.3 1.1 2.8 40.0 1.7 1.9 88.2 0.1 0.8 0.9 1.2 2.0 0.2 0.1 2.2 7.0
Jermaine O`Neal 12 22.7 2.3 5.5 42.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.2 1.6 73.7 1.5 4.1 5.6 0.3 0.7 0.4 1.6 3.3 5.8
Marquis Daniels 11 16.0 1.4 5.0 27.3 0.0 0.4 0.0 0.5 0.7 75.0 0.6 1.9 2.5 1.5 0.8 0.6 0.3 1.5 3.3
Sasha Pavlovic 6 11.5 1.2 3.0 38.9 0.5 1.3 37.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.8 0.8 0.3 0.5 0.5 0.3 1.5 2.8
Avery Bradley 12 9.3 1.0 2.6 38.7 0.1 0.8 11.1 0.3 0.5 66.7 0.3 0.7 1.0 0.5 0.5 0.3 0.0 0.9 2.4
Greg Stiemsma 11 10.5 0.8 1.5 56.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.6 0.9 70.0 0.9 1.8 2.7 0.5 0.5 0.2 1.5 2.3 2.3
JaJuan Johnson 8 2.9 0.6 1.3 50.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.4 0.5 75.0 0.3 0.5 0.8 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.1 1.6
Chris Wilcox 7 7.6 0.7 1.3 55.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.6 25.0 0.9 1.0 1.9 0.0 0.4 0.0 0.4 0.7 1.6
E`Twaun Moore 9 7.2 0.7 2.4 27.3 0.2 0.8 28.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.3 0.4 0.8 0.1 0.4 0.0 0.8 1.6

The good news for the Suns is that Rondo is doubtful to play after injuring his right wrist against the Raptors on Wednesday night. Journeyman combo guard Keyon Dooling would be a prime candidate to replace Rondo, but he missed practice on Thursday due to injury and is also unlikely to play. Second year pro Avery Bradley, he of the 81 points and 18 assists total in his career, looks to be the next in line, so this should give the Suns a great opportunity to control the Celtics offensive output. Update 1/20/12 10:53AM MST: Rondo's MRI results were negative. He's now a game-time decision and says he expects to play, according to the Boston Globe.

Questions remain about the Suns lineup as well, although the team is reasonably healthy. Alvin Gentry inserted Ronnie Price and Markieff Morris as starters Wednesday night. The pair wasn't particularly effective and one of the players sent to help bench production, Jared Dudley, went scoreless, but the Suns did have steadier production throughout the game. They didn't lose any of the four quarters to the Knicks, so a similar lineup can probably be expected tonight. Update II 1/20/12 12:25PM MST: Paul Coro reports that the starting linueps will be:

PG: Steve Nash vs. Rajon Rondo

SG: Ronnie Price vs. Ray Allen

SF: Grant Hill vs. Paul Pierce

PF: Markieff Morris vs. Kevin Garnett

C: Marcin Gortat vs. Jermaine O'Neal

Note: Our esteemed contributor Jim Coughenour did BSotS proud Wednesday in an appearance on New Hampshire ESPN affiliate WGAM. His brilliant piece analyzing the Suns early season results gained the station's attention and he participated in a telephone interview, the podcast of which can be found here (go to about the 3/4 way mark). Great work, Jim! Brightsiders, post high quality fan posts and this could be you!

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