After struggling in Minnesota, the Celtics looked to get a days’ rest and then stomp Phoenix in the first of back-to-back games, but that was never close to coming to fruition. The Suns played inspired ball from the opening tip and exploited what little weaknesses the Celtics have, earning a 110-103 win.
The C’s shot nearly 52 percent, won the rebounding battle, committed just 12 turnovers and got double figure scoring from all five starters, yet they trailed most of the game and never tied or led in the second half.
So what happened?
Phoenix canned 13 3-pointers. To put that into perspective, the Celtics had allowed opponents to hit 24 through the first six games. So basically, the Suns doubled the Celtics’ per-game average allowed. Also, the Suns made the Celtics play defense, specifically Ray Allen and Marquis Daniels.
Jason Richardson was J-Rich tonight. He played like the All-Star he was supposed to be when drafted by Golden State in 2001. He entered the game averaging 12.3 points in the team’s first three games but dropped 34, including six 3-pointers. Neither Allen nor Daniels could check him.
Steve Nash scored 16 points — including three 3-pointers — with 12 assists while Amar’e Stoudemire added 22 points and seven rebounds. The Celtics missed a lot of shots, clutch shots and were 4-for-18 from the 3-point line. Paul Pierce struggled the most. He forced some shots and seemed to get unnerved on a third-quarter charging call when it appeared that Nash wasn’t set in front of him.
Here are the player evaluations.
Paul Pierce — Just wasn’t himself because of the defense of former BC standout Jared Dudley, who has created quite a niche in the Phoenix lineup. He missed makeable jumpers. He hesitated on open shots and just was out of sorts.
Kevin Garnett — Stood up to the challenge of Stoudemire and had the most productive offensive night since his return. He did most of his work in the paint and was the most impressive Celtics of the evening.
Kendrick Perkins — The pace was too fast for him so he played just 25 minutes. He finished with 12 points and seven rebounds but he missed four free throws and got into a shoving match with Channing Frye.
Ray Allen — Worked hard on defense against the bigger and stronger Richardson and picked up five fouls, including two quick ones to start the second half that cost him key minutes. He was chasing Richardson around screens but wasn’t able to contain the former Golden State Warrior.
Rajon Rondo — Stepped up to the challenge of facing Nash with 14 points and 11 rebounds but two things stood out. He still needs to develop a jumper and he missed three key free throws in the second half, a sin for a point guard.
Marquis Daniels — For the first time this season, couldn’t handle his defensive assignment. Richardson is a tough matchup for many defenders. Still scored nine points with four rebounds but committed three turnovers.
Rasheed Wallace — Missed all six 3 pointers and of his 65 shots this season, 46 are 3-pointers. He still stretches the defense with his perimeter shooting threat but he has to be more consistent knocking them down.
Shelden Williams — Four rebounds in nearly 12 minutes but the pace wasn’t suitable for him. It was a quick man’s game.
Eddie House — Missed all three shots in 11 minutes with two fouls. If Eddie was on, he would have played more minutes.