Boston Celtics: 2012Game14

Rapid Reaction: Suns 79, Celtics 71

January, 20, 2012
1/20/12
9:56
PM ET
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesPaul Pierce looks to drive on Grant Hill and the Suns.
BOSTON -- Rapid reaction after Phoenix Suns defeated the Boston Celtics 79-71 Friday night at TD Garden.

HOW THE GAME WAS WON
The Rajon Rondo-less Celtics looked woeful at times on offense, shooting just 40.5 percent from the floor overall (30 of 74). And it wasn't the fault of Avery Bradley, the second-year guard drawing his first NBA start, as he chipped in 10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals and an assist over 30 quality minutes. The offense simply couldn't get much of a rhythm without Rondo and -- after rallying ahead late in the third quarter -- the team let it all slip away with a sloppy finish to the third frame. Ray Allen scored a team-high 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting for Boston, which did put five players in double figures. Paul Pierce added 12 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks over 38 minutes, but it wasn't enough. Marcin Gortat exploded out of the gates and tossed in a game-high 24 points for Phoenix, while Steve Nash chipped in 11 points, 9 assists, and 5 rebounds.

TURNING POINT
The Celtics came out of halftime trailing by 11, but actually rallied ahead late in the third frame. E'Twaun Moore hit a jumper to tie the game before Mickael Pietrus buried a 3-pointer for a 53-50 lead with 3:46 to go. Boston played a spectacularly poor final minute of the frame, watching the Suns get two layups and a pair of free throws to carry a 60-55 lead into the fourth quarter.

SOMEONE STOP GORTAT!
At the first stoppage of the game, some 7 minutes in, Gortat had more points (10) than the Celtics (8) and the Suns had an early eight-point cushion. Gortat displayed an array of left-handed moves, including a couple pretty hook shots before moving further out to showcase his range. The big man finished the first quarter with as many field goals (7 of 11, 14 points) as Boston (7 of 19, 15 points).

LOOSE BALLS
The Celtics shot a mere nine free throws (nine!?) With the offense struggling, they did little to get easy points at the charity stripe... Boston also got out-rebounded, 44-32... How much did they miss Rondo? Boston had only two fastbreak points (though the Suns only had six)... That said, the Celtics couldn't capitalize on 21 Phoenix turnovers (giving the ball up 19 times themselves)... The Suns also blocked eight shots (though Greg Stiemsma's chase-down on Ronnie Price was a rare Boston highlight).

WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics have now lost six of their last seven games. The tiniest of silver linings: A trip to Washington looms Sunday, a team that Boston has scored two of its five victories against. This was a chance to build some momentum, but the Celtics fumbled away a golden opportunity. This is a game they should have won, even without Rajon Rondo. Early holes continue to plague Boston, which is expending an awful lot of energy just fighting back.

Pregame: Rondo out, Bradley starts

January, 20, 2012
1/20/12
7:12
PM ET


BOSTON -- An MRI on Rajon Rondo's sprained right wrist came back negative Thursday, but the team is playing it safe and sitting him out for at least Friday's visit from the Phoenix Suns. Second-year guard Avery Bradley gets his first career start in his place.

"[Rondo's] not going to play tonight, but he’s getting better, I guess," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "He’ll be OK."

Rivers, who flew to Durham, N.C. to watch son, Austin, play for Duke University Thursday night, said he got a text during the game from trainer Ed Lacerte alerting him that Rondo would sit out. Rivers was uncertain Rondo's status for Sunday's game against the Wizards.

"I know he’s hoping he’s back by Washington, but I really don’t know," said Rivers. "So we’ll just have to wait."

How will the Celtics adjust their offense without Rondo?

"Well, we'll try not to run a point guard offense tonight, if that’s possible," said Rivers. "It’s tough when you build your team around running a point guard offense. But we will try to run more motion stuff. You’ll see Paul [Pierce] with the ball more, you’ll see Kevin [Garnett] at the elbow with the ball more because I think Kevin is our second-best passer. It is different. But we still want to run, we still want to attack. I want Avery [Bradley] and [rookie backup point guard] E’Twaun [Moore] to do as little thinking as possible, I want them to be extremely aggressive. We’ll see what happens."

Rivers noted that by starting Bradley, they protect him with the first unit.

"Really, we just wanted to surround Avery with the better offensive players with Paul, Ray [Allen], and Kevin," said Rivers. "I think E'Twaun, as far as offensively, runs the teams better at the point position. But defensively, Avery’s better. I can’t morph them [together]. The way is to protect Avery by putting him with better players and he has speed, and his speed may allow him to get to the basket, because we’ll have spacing on the floor with Ray, Paul, and Kevin out there."

How will Bradley fare against Phoenix's pick-and-roll heavy offense led by ageless point guard Steve Nash?

"We’ll find out," said Rivers. "It dOesn’t matter what we’ve seen. Because what’s coming is a lot of pick-and-roll. He’s guarded pick-and-roll well, but listen, guarding pick-and-roll and guarding pick-and-roll with Steve Nash, is two different things."

A few other quick pregame notes:

* Mickael Pietrus voiced frustration with the Phoenix medical staff, suggesting they might have known his right knee needed surgery earlier than he was informed (he instead played through the final month of the season in pain). Pietrus offered high praise for Nash, while often stressing how happy he is now in Boston.

* Keyon Dooling declined to chat about a possible setback with his right knee after sitting out practice on Thursday.

* Jermaine O'Neal, who aggravated his left wrist in Wednesday's game and sat out Thursday's practice, is in the lineup tonight.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jeff Green
PTS AST STL MIN
16.9 1.7 0.7 34.2
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsR. Rondo 9.8
StealsR. Rondo 1.3
BlocksB. Bass 0.9