Jeff Green scored 14, Jared Sullinger pulled down a career high 16 rebounds, and Jason added 13 points and five assists as the Boston Celtics bench carried them to an 87-79 win over the Pheonix Suns Wednesday night at the TD Garden. Pheonix got a game high 16 points from Luis Scola and 12 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks from Marcin Gortat on a night when the Celtics starters struggled, managing only 40 points. However the bench came through in a big way, outscoring the Celtics for the first time this year, and the Celtics came up with another solid team win.
Turning Point I
Coming off their most impressive win of the season the Celtic starters really struggled on Wednesday. The Suns aren't thought of a defensive force, but for some reason Boston's starters just couldn't get going and the Celtics found themselves in a surprisingly tight game midway through the second quarter. The Celtics were up just 34-33 with 7:04 remaining in the frame when Jeff Green drove past Michael Beasley and hammered a nasty right hand dunk home. Green followed up the play by throwing down a transition alley-oop from Avery Bradley. The two loud plays ignited a 12-2 Celtics run that broke the game wide open. The Celtics started getting stops and Bradley and Green got out on the break with Rondo for a bunch of easy shots. The Celtics had really coasted to this point. It was these plays by Green that got them going and got the crowd into it. The major reason the Celtics love Green is his ability to make game altering plays like these. He changed the game with that dunk.
Turning Point II
The starters just didn't seem to have it tonight and, despite being up 53-41 at the half, it didn't take them long to cough up the lead. The Celtics opened the third quarter by simply standing around the perimeter, hoisting up bad shots and not getting back on defense. This opened the door for a 17-2 Suns run that put them up 58-55 with 5:58 remaining in the frame. However the Celtics bench checked in again and got things back on track. A Rondo jumper stopped the bleeding, the Celtics closed the quarter strong to take a 67-64 lead into the fourth, and a Terry three to start off the final frame put the Celtics firmly back in control.
Bench Comes Up Big
You have to love when Jeff Green scores 14 points on a night when his shot wasn't falling. Green was the Celtics leading scorer tonight despite not hitting a jumpshot. On the anniversary of his heart surgery the Suns couldn't keep him away from the rim. Sullinger meanwhile had probably his best game as a pro. Going up against two very good rebounders in Scola and Gortat, Sully pulled down 16 rebounds and hit an important floater late in the fourth after the Suns had trimmed the lead down to six. However the star off the bench was Terry. After moonlighting in the starting lineup on Monday against the Knicks and having a tough shooting night, the JET had an excellent game in all phases against the Suns. He hit six of his eight shots and really ran the second unit the way the Celtics envisioned when they brought him in this offseason.
Other than Terry no one on the Celtics really had a good night shooting the ball. Only one starter scored in double figures, and not one of them shot better than 50 percent. However as Doc Rivers always says "on certain nights your offense is going to fail you. But if you come at it with the right mindset your defense never should." Trying to simply outscore teams is not Celtics basketball. They win games by buckling down on defense and forcing teams to be inefficient. That is exactly what they did to Pheonix, holding them to 39 percent shooting. This is the formula for success.
What It Means
There is nothing particularly impressive about a win over the 12-25 Suns, but good teams are supposed to beat bad teams convincingly. The Celtics starters had a really rough night, but the Celtics won anyway. It's their fourth straight win and they are suddenly only three games behind Indiana, who sit in third place in the Eastern Conference.
After and easy win over Pheonix the Celtics get the day off Thursday and then face a tough test when the Houston Rockets come to town Friday night. James Harden and the Rockets are playing very good basketball, and beat the Celtics in Houston 101-89 on December 14th. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. from TD Garden.
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