Ulis hits 3 at buzzer, Suns beat Celtics 109-106 in wild finish

Ulis hits 3 at buzzer, Suns beat Celtics 109-106 in wild finish

PHOENIX -- Some said Tyler Ulis was too small for the NBA. That's why he wasn't drafted until the second round.

He sure looks like he belongs now.

MORE: Paul Pierce plays his final game against Celtics

On a night where small players took center stage, the diminutive rookie, listed optimistically at 5-foot-10, threw in a 3-pointer at the buzzer after Isaiah Thomas' turnover and the Phoenix Suns came away with a wild 109-106 victory over the Boston Celtics on Sunday.

The Suns' Eric Bledsoe tied it at 106 with a reverse layup with four seconds to play.

The 5-foot-9 Thomas, the league's No. 2 scorer who had 35 points but missed a free throw with 11.9 seconds left, took the inbounds pass from Jae Crowder and the Suns' Marquese Chriss knocked the ball away.

"He got a hand on it," said Thomas, a former Sun. "I thought Jae would get it out quicker than he would. I don't know if he was looking to see if we had a timeout or I don't know what he was thinking to do."

Ulis grabbed the ball and tossed it up as the buzzer sounded.

"I figured it would come down to me having to take a late shot," he said. "Not like that, you know, off the steal, but I just shot it with confidence."

Ulis scored 20 points, a career best for the second game in a row. Bledsoe had 28 to help the Suns win three in a row for the first time this season.

The Celtics were without usual starters Al Horford (right elbow sprain) and Avery Bradley (right hamstring strain).

Chriss, another Phoenix rookie, scored 10 points and had a career-best five blocked shots to go with his one crucial steal. Devin Booker added 16 points, and T.J. Warren had 14. Alan Williams had 11 points and matched his career best with 15 rebounds.

Crowder drove straight down the lane for an underhand layup, was fouled and made the free throw for a three-point play that put the Celtics up 104-102 with 41.6 seconds to play, the fifth of six lead changes in the final 4:41. Brown made one of two free throws to put Boston up 105-102 with 20.7 seconds to go.

Bledsoe drove for a layup to slice the lead to 105-104 with 13.7 seconds to play, then Thomas made one of two free throws to put Boston up 106-104 and set up the frantic finish.

"Obviously, you don't want to turn it over at that time," Boston coach Brad Stevens said, "but those things happen and Ulis made a heck of a shot."

Nobody was happier for Ulis than his best friend and former Kentucky teammate Booker.

"Everybody looked at him as a pass-first point guard," Booker said, "but he can pretty much do it all. It doesn't surprise me. I've seen him do much of all this. Here on the NBA level, I think a lot more people are getting to see it."

Crowder scored 16 points, and Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier added 14 apiece for Boston, in the second stop of a five-game trip.

Ulis scored 15 points in the first half to help Phoenix to a 49-42 lead at the break and the Suns led by as many as 15 in the third quarter.


Celtics: Before coming to Phoenix for the game, Thomas called the February 2015 trade from the Suns to Boston "a Christmas gift." . . . Boston had beaten Phoenix three straight times . . . The shortest jump ball matchup in NBA this season occurred in 1st half between the 5-foot-9 Thomas and Ulis. Thomas waved his hands to encourage the fans, then easily won the jump.

Suns: Phoenix improved to 13-9 against the Eastern Conference, 9-4 at home. Suns have won two in a row only four times this season . . . Phoenix has won a season-best four in a row at home . . . Ulis did not play in 21 games this season and is now ahead of Brandon Knight as the team's backup to Bledsoe at point guard . . . Phoenix faced the top two scorers in the NBA in consecutive games. Russell Westbrook scored 48 on Friday, Thomas 35 on Sunday.


Celtics: Boston goes back to Los Angeles to face the Clippers Monday night

Suns: Phoenix plays the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night in the fourth game of five straight at home.

NBCSB Breakfast podcast: Maybe next year will be the Celtics' year

NBC Sports Boston Illustration

NBCSB Breakfast podcast: Maybe next year will be the Celtics' year

1:31 - With the results of Kyrie Irving’s second opinion on he knee looming, the Celtic’s season is certainly up in the air. A. Sherrod Blakely, Chris Mannix, Kyle Draper and Gary Tanguay debate how and if Kyrie should be used if he returns.

6:02 - Back in October Michael Felger prematurely said the Bruins season was over. The B’s marketing team featured Felger in an ad for playoff tickets now that the Bruins have clinched the playoffs. Felger, Trenni and Gary react to the commercial and discuss the Bruins playoff chances.

11:47 - The Patriots are making moves! on Tursday the Pats made deals with LaAdrian Waddle, Marquis Flowers and Patrick Chung. Phil Perry, Michael Holley, Troy Brown and Tom Curran discuss how despite these moves, the Patriots should still be in search of a left tackle.

Greg Monroe looking forward to his 2nd taste of playoffs

File Photo

Greg Monroe looking forward to his 2nd taste of playoffs

BOSTON – We live in a world filled with success stories that came about by accident. 

The invention of the microwave oven.

Post-It notes.

The creation of potato chips.

The Boston Celtics’ game-winning play against Oklahoma City earlier this week qualfies; a play in which there were multiple miscues made by the Celtics prior to Marcus Morris’ game-winning shot. 


All these Celtics injuries have made Brad Stevens a mad scientist of sorts with some unusual lineups that may be on display tonight against the guard-centric Portland Trail Blazers. 

In Boston’s 100-99 win over the Thunder on Tuesday, we saw Stevens utilize a lineup with Al Horford and Greg Monroe, in four different stints.

Monroe, who had 17 points off the bench - the most he has scored as a Celtic -  enjoyed playing with Horford.

“Al’s so smart. He’s seen it all in this league,” Monroe told NBC Sports Boston. “He’s an all-star. Very cerebral player, unselfish. So it’s easy playing with him. He can space, drive, make plays. I feel like I can make plays, driving. It’s fun playing with him. I look forward to getting out there with him more.”

Horford had similar praise for playing with Monroe.

“Coach (Brad Stevens) made a great move bringing Greg back in, in the fourth, playing us together,” Horford said. “He made some great plays, passing the ball and just … timely plays. It’s one of those things, the more we play with each other the more comfortable we’ll get. I thought it was very positive.”

Monroe’s role has become significantly more important with the season-ending injury (torn meniscus, left knee) to Daniel Theis. And his ability to play well with various lineups will only improve Boston’s chances of weathering this latest storm of injuries which comes on the eve of the playoffs. 

And while there’s a certain amount of pleasure all players take in being on a playoff-bound team, Monroe understands better than most NBA veterans just how special it is to be headed towards the postseason.

In his eighth season, this will only be Monroe’s second time participating in the playoffs. 

The first time? 

That was last year, with the Milwaukee Bucks. 

“This is what everybody plays for, I hope,” Monroe said. “This is what I play for, to get into the postseason, make a run. It’s the best situation. I’ve been through a lot in my career, this year. I’m grateful. I don’t take anything for granted. I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team.”

And he has done that lately.

Monroe comes into tonight’s game having scored in double figures each of the last four games, a season high for the 6-foot-11 center. 

Having spent most of his NBA career watching instead of participating in the playoffs, Monroe is out to prove that he can in fact be a significant contributor to a team that’s postseason-bound.

“For sure. You have to have a little chip, a little fire, at least in my eyes,” Monroe said. “I’ve never doubted myself. It’s about being between those lines and being the best player I can be. That’s what I’m focused on.”