Saturday, February 23, 2008
House of the Rising Sun
The Celtics lost their season-high third in a row last night to the Phoenix Suns, 85-77. After giving up a ton of points in their last two games, Boston's defense stepped up against the highest scoring team in the NBA. The problem was that the C's offense was nowhere to be found, making it their ugliest performance of the season.
You knew something was up when the Suns (38-17) took a 15-point lead just five minutes into the game. The first quarter finished with Phoenix up 24-13 and honestly, they could have been up by 25 if they didn't keep turning the ball over. Kevin Garnett (19 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 block) is starting to look like himself but Ray Allen (11 points on 3 of 12 shooting) and Paul Pierce (8 points, 6 rebounds, 2 of 13 shooting) picked a bad time to both have their worst games of the season.
Amare Stoudemire (game-high 28 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks) put up some nice numbers but he shot only 10 of 23. Stoudemire and KG evidently are not the best of friends and it showed as they repeatedly pushed, jawed at and fouled each other. It was fun to watch but ultimately hurt the C's as KG picked up a couple stupid fouls that way. The Celtics (41-12) also did a decent job defensively on Steve Nash (18 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) but Grant Hill put up a double-double with 14 points, 13 rebounds and three steals. Boris Diaw was the only other Sun in double figures with 10 points and five boards.
It has been harder than usual the last few nights rooting against the Warriors and Suns because outside of Boston, these are by far my favorite teams to watch in the NBA. Who wouldn't want to watch run and gun, up and down basketball every night? It is truly the way the game is meant to be played, not the San Antonio Spurs inspired half-court snoozefest.
With that said, if you heard the Suns scored 85 points then there's no way they could have won, right? As good as Phoenix is on offense, they're just as bad on defense. Thus the decision to acquire Shaq last week for Shawn Marion. Who knows if the Big Cactus (his new nickname) will bring a much deserved championship to the desert but at least the Suns are going for it.
Shaq wasn't anything special last night, turning in a Ben Wallace type, 14 rebounds, 4 points, 2 blocks kind of night.
The C's played a little better in the second quarter but still found themselves down 43-30 going into the half. The third quarter was more of the same as the Suns were just a little bit better (20-19). Boston made a last gasp run in the fourth (28-22) but it was too late. Rajon Rondo (12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals), Tony Allen (9 points) and Kendrick Perkins (6 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks) were all OK but the rest of the bench was non-existent.
Phoenix outshot Boston for the game (42.3%-38.5%). Neither team could hit threes, Boston was 4 of 17 to Phoenix's 5 of 11. The Suns got to the free-throw line more, 18 of 28 to the C's 13 of 16. The biggest number that jumps out from the loss is that Phoenix destroyed Boston on the glass, 50-32. Boston had so many shots that you knew weren't going in and then they couldn't gather the rebounds either, making for lots of one and out possessions.
With only two games (Portland, Clippers) left on this trip, the Celts need to get back to the win column tomorrow night against the Blazers. It won't be easy since Boston beat Portland earlier in the season and the Blazers are battling for a playoff spot in the West (who isn't)? So far in the three games this week, Boston hasn't put together a complete game. In Denver and Golden State the offense was great and in Phoenix the defense was great. If the C's can put both sides together, they will start winning again.