Celtics

Celtics run away from Suns, 115-103

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Celtics run away from Suns, 115-103

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The Boston Celtics are a team in transition - literally and figuratively - these days.

They certainly were on Wednesday night as they ran away with a 115-103 win over the Phoenix Suns.

A big part of Boston's success was the C's ability to score in transition, which is surprising when you consider Phoenix is one of the NBA's better teams when it comes to scoring on fast-break opportunities.

On Wednesday, it was the C's getting out and running as they outscored the Suns 24-7 in fast-break points.

"We said if we can get stops, we can run," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "We felt that we could really beat them down the floor."

And the key to Boston's transition game is Rajon Rondo, who had his 25th double-double of the season with 16 points and 15 assists.

"One of the things we told Rondo is to think of this as a coast-to-coast game," Rivers said. "Every time you got the ball, think about going from rim to rim until they stop you. And if they stop you, that means someone's open."

For most of the game, that someone was Kevin Garnett who tallied his 22nd double-double of the season with a season-high 28 points and 11 rebounds.

That was just part of a Boston (44-15) team that's still adding pieces to the puzzle - Wednesday was Troy Murphy's first game with the Celtics, and the C's will add another player, Sasha Pavlovic, as early as Thursday - but still good enough to put together a much-improved effort after losing 88-71 at Phoenix on Jan. 28.

In that game, Kevin Garnett was ejected after picking up two technical fouls. It was also a game in which Garnett connected on a below-the-belt-shot on Channing Frye that prompted some reacting to the incident by labeling Garnett as a dirty player.

"I don't really care," Garnett said.

More than anything, Garnett seemed bothered by comments about him that he doesn't believe are true.

"Don't make stuff up, stuff that's not true," Garnett said. "I don't fall from dirty. I play the game really hard. I play with my heart. I'm never going to make any excuses about that, so who cares what they're talking about."

There would be no questionable below-the-waist shots from Garnett on Wednesday.

Every shot Garnett tossed on Wednesday was above and more often than not, through the rim.

Garnett was smacking the Suns around - Frye in particular - most of the game.

He led all scorers with a season-high 28 points, with his play being a big part of the Celtics pulling ahead by as many as 29 points.

But the Suns, about as streaky a team as you'll find in the NBA, got hot at the start of the fourth and had Boston's lead down to just 10 points with more than eight minutes to play.

Just like that, the Celtics' runaway victory was now a game again.

A pair of free throws by Glen Davis with 8:17 to play pushed the C's lead to 93-81. He would later leave the game because of a strained patella tendon in his left knee.

Davis said he was planning to have an MRI done today, and go from there as far as when he would return.

Phoenix eventually cut Boston's lead to single digits following an Aaron Brooks jumper with 7:14 to play.

The Suns had to play a good chunk of the fourth without starters Vince Carter (mouth laceration) and Frye (eye contusion) who collided with one another.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

New deal in hand, Marcus Smart says, 'Boston loves me, I love Boston'

New deal in hand, Marcus Smart says, 'Boston loves me, I love Boston'

Marcus Smart is right where he wants to be, a member of the Celtics.

But Smart, 24, who signed a four-year, $52 million deal on Thursday, readily admits that there was a time not that long ago when he wasn’t sure about his future in Boston when negotiations didn't go nearly as smooth as he would have liked.

“At one moment, I didn’t really know what to think,” Smart said in a conference call with reporters on Friday. “My main focus has been on my mom and my family.”

His mother Camellia Smart was recently diagnosed with bone marrow cancer.

“When you go through adversity with something like this in your family, it puts things in perspective and everything else becomes kind of a blur to you,” Smart said.

One thing that is clear has been his Smart's impact on the Celtics.

The 6-foot-4 guard has been among the league’s top on-the-ball defenders for years, showcasing a level of defensive versatility that stands out.

Boston allowed just 99.5 points per 100 possessions when Smart was on the floor, which ranked among the league's leaders among guards who played 41 or more games.

And while he is often criticized for his shooting struggles (a career 36-percent shooter from the field, 29.3 percent from 3-point range), Smart still averaged a respectable 10.2 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game last season primarily as Boston’s first guard off the bench.

Despite a solid season, the free agent marketplace was not kind one to him.

One of the main reasons for that? Smart was a restricted free agent, which meant the Celtics would have the right to match any offer sheet he signed.

Smart was also hurt by the fact that there were fewer teams with the kind of financial flexibility to put forth an offer sheet that would make the Celtics strongly consider letting him walk.

But even before Smart hit free agency, Danny Ainge and the entire Celtics organization made it absolutely crystal clear that they wanted him back.

And as the free agency period dragged on, the Celtics - at least in their words - never hedged from that position.

In the end, those words were put into action. 

"Keeping Marcus in a Celtics uniform was a top priority, said Ainge, the Celtics' president of basketball operations. "His intensity is unmatched, and the level of toughness that he brings to the team throughout the course of the entire season is second to none."

Smart acknowledged that the process became a bit frustrating at times.

“I didn’t know where I was going to end up at,” Smart said.

And while that uncertainty was difficult to deal with, Smart actually looks back upon the experience and describes it as “a fun thing.”

“As frustrating as it is,” Smart added, “not many people in the world can say that they’re in talks to play for an NBA team, to make a dream become a reality. Being able to do things they never imagined they would be able to do. This whole time, even with everything going on, me not knowing where I could end up, it was still fun, exciting for me.”

And those fun, exciting times will continue for the longest-tenured member of the Celtics.

“Boston loves me, I love Boston. Boston wants me to be here, I want to be here,” Smart said. “I am here so, we made it work.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Marcus Smart is back, but is he worth the money?

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Marcus Smart is back, but is he worth the money?

1:32 - Marcus Smart is back! Michael Holley, Tom Giles and Danielle Trotta discuss the 4-year, $52 million deal the guard signed with the Celtics on Thursday and debate whether or not he’s worth the money.

7:36 - According to Greg Bedard of the Boston Sports Journal, the issues between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady haven’t been resolved, but then we have Danny Amendola on Barstool’s “Comeback Szn Podcast” disputing this. Phil Perry, Tom Giles and Michael Holley try to make some sense of it all.

12:49 - After J.D. Martinez said that this Red Sox team is like a family, it has Tom Giles and Danielle Trotta wondering if the club has an identity and what that might be.

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NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE