Celtics vs. Suns takeaways: C’s go ice-cold in ugly loss originally appeared on NBC SportsBoston
Without Devin Booker, the Phoenix Suns found a way to exact revenge on the Boston Celtics on Friday night.
After losing to Boston by 27 earlier this season, Phoenix shut down the C’s offense for most of the game to hand them a 106-94 defeat. The Celtics shot just 38.7 percent from the floor after shooting 57.4 percent in Wednesday’s blowout win over the Brooklyn Nets.
Jaylen Brown was one of the few bright spots for Boston offensively as he notched a game-high 27 points one night after earning his second All-Star no. Fellow All-Star Jayson Tatum had an off night as he tallied 20 points while shooting just 3-for-15 from the floor.
With Booker, Cameron Payne, and Landry Shamet out, Mikal Bridges stepped up to lead the Suns with 25 points. Chris Paul added 15 points of his own from him while Deandre Ayton chipped in 14.
The Celtics will look to bounce back when they visit the Detroit Pistons on Monday. Here are our takeaways from the C’s loss, which brings them to 37-16 on the season.
C’s offense comes back down to earth
The start of Friday’s game was the polar opposite of what we watched Wednesday vs. Brooklyn. After dropping 46 points in the first quarter against the Nets, the Celtics had just 20 in the opening frame vs. the Suns.
They were as cold as the freezing temperatures outside TD Garden in the first half. They shot just 37.5 percent on field goals through the first two quarters, causing them to trail by as many as 20 points.
Jayson Tatum was at the center of the team’s offensive struggles. The four-time All-Star didn’t earn a tally in the scoring column until there was 3:35 left on the clock in the second quarter. He finished the first half with only six points.
Boston cut the deficit to one in the second half but couldn’t get over the hump. Ultimately, its 38.7 field goal percentage and 26.3 percent (10-for-38) shooting from beyond the arc was too much to overcome.
The Suns also scored 16 points off the Celtics’ 14 turnovers. The C’s 18 assists matched Saturday’s OT win over the Lakers for their second-lowest total of the season.
Suns win the bench battle
The short-handed Suns got plenty of support from their second unit in this one.
Damion Lee had 11 points and was a game-best +30 off the bench. Ish Wainwright — a former tight end at Baylor — matched his season high with nine points. He also drilled a full-court shot that didn’t count, but was still awesome.
Jock Landale also had nine for Phoenix and Saben Lee tallied seven. That’s 36 points in total for the Suns bench to the Celtics’ 19, with 12 of those points scored by Malcolm Brogdon. Grant Williams went scoreless in 22 minutes and Payton Pritchard had three points in 12 minutes. Luke Kornet had four before exiting with an ankle injury.
The Suns had the better supporting cast. That proved to be the difference-maker with Tatum off his game.
Luke Kornet injury worth monitoring
Kornet’s ankle sprain didn’t jump out as a major concern during Friday’s game, but it’s notable given the time of year and the Celtics’ lack of frontcourt depth.
If the injury continues to nag Kornet, then Grant Williams and Blake Griffin will be the only big men behind the injury-prone Robert Williams on the depth chart. That could force Brad Stevens’ hand ahead of the Feb. 9 NBA trade deadline as a frontcourt addition already was considered a strong possibility.
We can expect two-way center Mfiondu Kabengele to replace Kornet in the near term. But if Kornet is forced to miss additional time, perhaps Stevens will search for an insurance policy before next Thursday.