Celtics need 4th-quarter run to hold off Suns, 116-111

Celtics need 4th-quarter run to hold off Suns, 116-111

BOSTON – Before the game Saturday afternoon against Phoenix, Brad Stevens talked about his affinity for early games, mostly because of its benefits for the kiddies.

Well, the early start seemed to be the liking of his relatively youthful roster with youngsters, like Jaylen Brown, getting off to good starts while the team’s closer – Kyrie Irving - sealed the 116-111 victory.

Irving had a team-high 19 points, which included a driving lay-up with 28.8 seconds to play that gave the Celtics a 112-106 lead.

The Celtics (20-4) are the first team in the NBA this season to reach the 20-win plateau while riding victories in four of their past six, which came on the heels of a 16-game winning streak.

Brown scored 10 of his 17 points in the first quarter which ended with the Celtics ahead, 31-22. His strong play continued in the second quarter, scoring six points in the quarter which tied for the team-high with Daniel Theis.

However, Boston’s lead going into the half was down to 60-54.

Phoenix came in having dropped 10 of its 15 losses this season by at least 10 points, so to be within single digits in the second quarter and a good chunk of the game was indeed an accomplishment of sorts for them.

But they weren’t looking for moral victories; not today at least.

An alley-oop dunk by Tyson Chandler from Devin Booker gave the Suns a 67-65 lead with 7:22 to play in the third.

Boston responded with a 24-12 run, which gave them an 89-79 lead going into the fourth.

The Celtics continued to surge ahead and led 96-81, only for Phoenix to respond with a 13-4 run capped off by a 3-pointer from former Boston College standout Jared Dudley.

After a Celtics timeout with 4:26 to play, rookie Jayson Tatum scored on a driving lay-up and followed that up with a blocked shot. Tatum was one of six double-figure scorers for Boston, joined by Irving, Horford (14 points), Marcus Morris (17 points) and Marcus Smart (13 points).

For most of the game, the Celtics made the necessary adjustments to whatever Phoenix tried to do, and in the process stymied the Suns' efforts to pull off an upset.

Phoenix opened with a 5-0 spurt, only to see Boston come back with a 16-5 run, capped off by a jumper Aron Baynes to make it a 16-10.

Keeping Phoenix in the game was Booker; the same Devin Booker who dropped 70 points – yes, 70 points – on the same TD Garden floor last season.

He wasn’t that prolific scoring in the first half, but there was no getting around the significant impact that his presence and play was having on the scoreboard. He would finish with 38 points after fouling out with 17.3 seconds to play and the Suns trailing 114-111.

Booker had 21 points in the first half, 15 of which came in the second quarter. He fouled out late in the fourth with 38 points. 

Phoenix went ahead briefly in the third quarter by as many as three (71-68). But Boston responded with a 16-6 run capped off by Tatum draining a jumper over Josh Jackson, the Nos. 3 and No. 4 picks, in last June’s NBA draft.



Ray Allen among Hall of Fame finalists

Ray Allen among Hall of Fame finalists

Ray Allen, part of the Celtics' Big Three that won Boston's last championship in 2008, is one of the finalists for the Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018 announced Saturday at NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.

Allen, the all-time leader in three-pointers with 2,973, who, with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, helped the Celtics hang their 17th championship banner, joins Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Grant Hills and WNBA stars Tina Thompson and Katie Smith as first-time nominees. Also among the finalists are Maurice Cheeks, Chris Webber, coach Charles “Lefty” Driesell, coach Kim Mulkey, coach Rudy Tomjanovich, referee Hugh Evans, and the Wayland Baptist University women’s team.

The inductees to be enshrined in the Hall in September in Springfield, Mass., will be revealed April 1 at the NCAA men's Final Four in San Antonio. 

Finalists for induction need to be retired for at least three seasons. They'll now be voted on by a 24-member panel that includes current Hall of Famers, basketball executives and media members. Those receiving at least 18 of 24 votes will be inducted.

More on the Hall finalists here from NBCSports.com's Pro Basketball Talk 

Allen was part of a recent Celtics Talk podcast where he talked about his Celtics career and the controversy after he left to join the Miami Heat in 2012. Click here or listen below.


Jaylen Brown scores 35 in Rising Stars game

USA TODAY Sports photo

Jaylen Brown scores 35 in Rising Stars game

LOS ANGELES – A year ago this time, Jaylen Brown couldn’t even get an invite to the rookie-sophomore game, the Rising Stars Challenge.

But this year, he was there and he played a prominent role for Team USA even though it wasn’t enough as the Team World squad easily won, 155-124.

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It certainly wasn’t because of Brown who led all scorers with 35 points on 14-for-21 shooting along with 10 rebounds.

And it was vintage Brown, mixing in an array of jumpers, 3-pointers and of course a pair memorable between-the-leg dunks.

Brown put on a show, for sure which isn’t all that surprising when you consider how the perceived snub last year served as added motivation for him on Friday night.

“Definitely I feel like I've got a chip on my shoulder, so I come out with that tenacity that I want people to recognize,” Brown told reporters after the game. “I want people to see. I just come out and play with that fire and let everything else fall into place.”

In addition to leading all scorers on Friday night, Brown also set a Celtics record for most points scored in the rookie-sophomore game.

“Like I said before, it's just great being here,” Brown said. “It's a tremendous opportunity. I just thank the NBA for letting me be part of this weekend. I had a lot of fun, and I just came out and was playing some basketball. Simple.”

Brown's Celtics teammate, rookie Jayson Tatum, came off the Team USA bench and scored 15 points.

And while they didn’t play too many stints together on Friday, both being selected for the game is a reminder of just how their progression and growth within the Celtics organization is along the same lines for each of them.

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“This year we've grown tremendously together,” Brown said. “Just studying older guys – Kyrie [Irving], Marcus Morris, [Aron] Baynes, and learning the game together, Al Horford. So me and him have gotten better together. So anytime you can grow with somebody in this league and also be successful, it's always dope being a part of situations like this. Like the Rising Stars Challenge I think is pretty cool. I think in the future, if we continue to stay together and continue to grow, I think we could be special.”

The same could be said for Brown’s play on Friday night, the kind of performance that speaks to the improvement in his game this season.

“My growth from last year to this year was significant, and my growth from this year to next year is going to be even better,” Brown said. “So, that's all it's about at the end of the day. It's not about dominating, it's not about this. It's just about getting better each and every day, you know, and just trying to hang a banner in Boston.”

Here are some of Brown's best moves: 

And Tatum's: