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Friday, March 14, 2014
Rapid Reaction: Suns 87, Celtics 80

By Chris Forsberg


BOSTON -- Rapid Reaction after the Phoenix Suns defeated the Boston Celtics 87-80 on Friday night at TD Garden:

THE NITTY GRITTY
Goran Dragic (20 points, four assists, three rebounds) and Eric Bledsoe (17 points, 10 rebounds, four assists) gave Boston fits, while P.J. Tucker added a double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds). But it was rookie Alex Len, pressed into late-game service when Kelly Olynyk floored Miles Plumlee with an elbow, who produced the crucial tip-in in the final minute to help the playoff-hunting Suns emerge. Kris Humphries and Chris Johnson had matching team-highs at 11 points as Boston shot just 30.9 percent overall (29 of 94) and lost despite eight players registering eight points or more. Rajon Rondo finished with eight points, eight rebounds, and five assists over 34:23 but was minus-18 in plus/minus, while Avery Bradley chipped in nine points, a rebound and a steal over 16:38 off the bench in his return from missing the last 13 games.

TURNING POINT
The Suns led by as many as 11 points early in the second quarter, but Boston rallied to tie it before the end of the frame. Phoenix got its lead back up to eight early in the third quarter, but again Boston clawed back. It was the Celtics out front by three with 3:18 to play in the fourth quarter, but Bledsoe completed an old-fashioned three-point play to tie the score. Knotted at 80 with 54.1 seconds to play, Len took advantage of a switch and tipped in Bledsoe's miss while being fouled (and made the freebie for an 83-80 lead).

LOOSE BALLS
The Celtics debuted their new St. Patrick's Day alternate jerseys. They'll wear the sleeved shirts their next two games as well. ... Chris Babb was a healthy DNP, while Joel Anthony made a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo late in the first half (an inbound turnover and he was immediately subbed back out). ... The Celtics finished with 56 rebounds, including 19 on the offensive glass.

WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics (22-44) have now lost three in a row and will maintain the fourth-worst record in basketball (entering the night tied for that spot with the Jazz and Lakers). If the losing streak is to stop, Boston is going to have to win on the road against the Western Conference, something it hasn't done this season. The Celtics are 0-13 as they prepare for a back-to-back in New Orleans and Dallas to wrap up their west slate. The Celtics return home Wednesday to host the Miami Heat.