The Celtics miss Marcus Smart, but that wasn’t why they lost against the Suns

The Celtics have lost four out of six without Smart. But that's not an excuse against the Suns without Devin Booker.

Phoenix Suns' Deandre Ayton (22) dunks in front of Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum (0) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

In stark contrast to Wednesday night’s blowout win over Brooklyn, the Celtics went cold from 3-point range and fell flat overall Friday night against Phoenix.

Boston shot less than 40 percent from the field and was held to under 100 points.

Friday was one of those nights where the offense simply didn’t get it done. The result was a 106-94 loss at TD Garden.

“I think that they came out and outplayed us from start to finish for the most part,” Celtics guard Jaylen Brown said. “We got off to a decent start but they outplayed us. No energy, they got more shots than we did. Walking the ball up the floor every possession. We just didn’t have the enthusiasm. Just going through the motions as a unit.”


The Celtics continue to press on without Marcus Smart who has been out with an ankle injury and hasn’t played since Jan. 21. The Celtics have lost four of their last six without him.

“We just have to get back to what we were doing while he was in there,” Celtics guard Derrick White said. “Obviously Smart is special and the things he does for us, only Smart does, but you’ve just got to step up and get the same looks, the same spacing, the same opportunities.”

The Suns, who were without star guard Devin Booker didn’t shoot particularly well either. Mikal Bridges, who led the Suns with 25 points, went 9-for-20 from the field and 0-for-3 from 3-point territory. Chris Paul missed nine of his 15 shots.

Collectively, Phoenix shot just over 43 percent, which is a below-average performance for them.

But the Suns outhustled and outrebounded the Celtics, which led to Phoenix taking 20 more shots than Boston did. They made enough shots when it counted to stave off every Boston comeback attempt. And they were relatively careful with the basketball, limiting themselves to eight turnovers.

“Obviously it’s disappointing to have such a high after the last game to come out like we did today,” White said. “We kind of had similar looks, we just didn’t make them. We started slow and then we just couldn’t really get over that hump. We cut it to what 1 or something like that and never got over the hump, so definitely disappointed.”


Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said he doesn’t feel disappointed in the performance, but noted that the Celtics have to do a better job at staying consistent, especially after dominant wins like the one against the Nets.

“The fragility of you hanging on to playing a ‘perfect game’ is very difficult,” Mazzulla said. “Phoenix did a great job managing the game with their offense and their ability to execute. We had spurts throughout the game where we gave up runs and we didn’t manage it well. Whether it was because of our offense or our second shot defense.”


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