Paul Pierce provided the knockout blow. But it was Kevin Garnett who heard chants of “MVP, MVP” as he stood at the foul line in the closing moments of a 117-97 win over the Phoenix Suns tonight.
The Suns extended Boston’s losing streak to three games with a win with in Phoenix on Feb. 22, but the Celtics put to rest any notion of a repeat performance with dominant performance tonight here at the TD Banknorth Garden.
The game was tied at halftime, but the Celtics outscored the Suns 27-16 in the third quarter. Garnett had eight points in the period as Boston held the Suns to 40 percent shooting while also forcing seven turnovers.
The Celtics would only build the lead from there. With the Suns back on their heels, Pierce poured in 12 points in the final period to put the game out of reach. Pierce had a solid all-around game, finishing with 27 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists.
On a team with three perennial All-Stars, Pierce is making a case that he is the most important of the three. The Celtics outscored the Suns by 29 when Pierce was on the floor, but only by 12 when Garnett was playing.
Garnett finished the game with 30 points and 6 assists. Ray Allen had 14 points and 8 assists for the C’s.
After a sluggish first quarter, the Suns turned up their defensive in the second period to earn a tie going into halftime. Amare Stoudemire led the Suns with 32 points and 6 rebounds, but he also had 5 turnovers.
Already with their hands full in a stacked Western Conference, Phoenix found out just how tough the East can be after running through the buzz saw that is Detroit and Boston in back-to-back-games. The Suns had won seven in a row before losing to the Pistons Monday.
The Celtics return home Friday night to face the Hornets, a team that beat them just last week in New Orleans. It won’t be easy, but just like they did tonight with a win over the Suns, Boston would love to keep the Hornets from sweeping the season series.
We’ll be back in a bit with plenty of reaction from both locker rooms.