The game was scrappy, as predicted by both coaches before it began. But the Suns prevailed on the great play of P.J. Tucker's double double, and balanced offense from Goran Dragic, Gerald Green, Channing Frye and Markieff Morris.
It was a scrappy game, but the Suns prevailed over a Boston Celtics team that struggles on offense and showed it in the fourth quarter. The Suns scrapped their own way to a win at home - a necessary win at home.
Will all of these players be on their same teams tomorrow? Who knows. But they are both going in the right direction, I believe.
The Celtics ran out of steam while the Suns finished the game by attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line, as a good team should.
It was a 7-point Suns lead before the foul/flop fest began.
At the beginning of the game, it was a Rajon Rondo / Goran Dragic playoff. Each player had 4 assists in the first six minutes of the game (a 32-assist pace per 48).
It was also a Green-off - Gerald vs. Jeff. Both took a lot of jumpers early on, accounting for 15 of the first 36 points in the game.
But it was P.J. Tucker who took over the game late in the first quarter, causing havoc with his hustle and getting 7 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals in the first quarter alone. If he seems to be getting better and better, your eyes don't fool you. 14 and 11 over his last three games, 10.7 and 8.2 over 10 games vs. 9.5 and 6.4 on the season.
Suns led 29-21 after one.
The second quarter began with Markieff Morris working Kelly Olynyk on the post, to the point that Boston had to switch off to Humphries (who immediately fouled Morris rather than giving up the points).
The Suns lead got to 11 before the Celtics made a couple of shots and then kept the game close for the rest of the quarter by hustling on every play. They are a mini-version of the Suns by trying to win despite not having All-Stars in the lineup.
The Suns helped the Celtics out by committing 14 first-half turnovers (many unforced) and 10 offensive rebounds to allow the 36%-shooting Celtics to stay in the game. The Suns led by only 2 at halftime.
Suns 52-50 at halftime.
The second half started with Rondo and Bass working the two-man pick and pop game to perfection (four jumpers) while the Suns took bad shots. Not a good start.
Before Hornacek made lineup changes (back to the poor-performing bench), it was a 9-point Celtics lead. The Celtics played their game (midrange shots when they opened up), crashed the boards and kept their hands up for turnovers.
The Suns started getting frustrated at that point but couldn't cut all the way into the lead, until finally they went on a 20-5 run, half of which was with Rondo on the bench for the Celtics.
In the fourth, the Suns extended the run to 25-5 for a 10-point lead before allowing some scrappy scores by the Celtics (is there any other kind for them?).
The Celtics held strong after that by, you guessed it, making some more midrange jumpers - this time three straight by Rajon Rondo. In the third quarter, it was Brandon Bass making four straight. Now its Rondo. Can he keep it up? Bass couldn't. And Dragic came back to fight through the screens.
But the Suns stayed cold, and the Celtics scrapped to within two points at 88-86 on a broken-play three from Olynyk.
Finally, the Suns made enough shots to pull away before the the foul-fest began on both ends of the court. For some reason, the Suns had the lead but they were the ones committing quick fouls.