Boston’s 109-106 buzzer-beating defeat at the hands of the Phoenix Suns will certainly be remembered by Isaiah Thomas’ last-second turnover that led to the game-winning basket for Phoenix.
But the Celtics’ troubles began well before Thomas’ end-of-game gaffe.
Specifically, the second quarter proved to be Boston’s undoing as the Suns dominated the Celtics to the tune of 30-20 which truth be told, didn’t feel even that close.
“That second quarter was about as bad as I’ve seen us play,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said following the loss. “And they had a lot to do with that.”
Phoenix became more aggressive in their pressure on Boston’s backcourt which not only led to more turnovers but maybe just as significant, never allowed the Celtics to get into a good flow or rhythm.
Boston turned the ball over five times in the second quarter which led to nine points for the Suns, winners of three in a row for the first time this season. The Celtics also allowed the Suns to score nine second-chance points in the quarter while they were scoreless.
The Celtics made progress in the third and seemingly had their chances to put it away in the fourth, but missed free throws by both Jaylen Brown and Isaiah Thomas kept the Suns faint hopes of getting the win alive.
And the Suns made the most of the opportunity by pulling out an improbable win.
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Sunday night’s game.
He didn’t score the game-winning points, but he made big plays offensively down the stretch to positon Phoenix for the Suns’ signature win this season. He finished with a near double-double of 28 points and nine assists.
Foul trouble certainly impacted Thomas’ overall game, but the 5-foot-9 guard still managed to leave his imprint on the game. He led all scorers with 35 points and five assists, but will be remembered most for his last-second turnover that set up the Suns’ game-winning shot.
The rookie drained the biggest shot of his still-young career to lift the Suns to victory with no time remaining. That was just one of several baskets made by Ulis who finished with a career-high 20 points off the bench.
His defense and overall play continues to stand out for the Celtics. He finished with a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Another one of Phoenix’s youngsters, Chriss made his presence felt at both ends of the floor most of the night. For the night, he had 10 points, six rebounds and a game-high five blocked shots.
Filling in for defensive ace Avery Bradley, Brown once again did a lot of things well that both he and the Celtics can build on going forward. He finished with 14 points and six rebounds with three assists.
He has been on a wicked tear of late for the Suns, tallying his third straight double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds off the Phoenix bench.
Celtics interior defense
Phoenix pummeled Boston with baskets at the rim, most of which on dribble-drive penetration or put-backs. By the time the final horn sounded, the Suns came away with the win that was fueled in large part by a 52-32 edge in points in the paint.