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.



NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Celtics draft big man Robert Williams in first round

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Celtics draft big man Robert Williams in first round

1:24 - A. Sherrod Blakely, Brain Scalabrine and Kyle Draper break down the Celtics' selection in the 2018 NBA Draft and are joined by the man who made the pick himself, Danny Ainge.

7:49 - The Nets and Dwight Howard have begun buyout talks, which means the veteran center could soon be a free agent. Michael Holley, Danielle Trotta and Luke Bonner debate if Howard would be a good fit in Boston.

11:59 - Brad Stevens fields questions from the media immediately following the Celtics selection of Williams.



Ainge stays patient in draft by standing pat at No. 27

Ainge stays patient in draft by standing pat at No. 27

BOSTON – Danny Ainge went through his customary routine of making calls up and down the draft, looking for any and every opportunity to make a deal that would strengthen the Boston Celtics roster. 

And while he was open to getting a deal done and move away from the team’s late first-round pick, Ainge said he went into Thursday night’s draft intent on standing pat with the 27th overall pick that was used to select Robert Williams.

The past few weeks were spent by Ainge and his front office staff examining what the price would be for them to move up in the draft. 

That price proved to be too steep for Ainge’s liking. 

His assessment afterward?

“We were preparing for the 27th pick,” Ainge said. “We were preparing for opportunities to move up; not all the way to the top of the draft but somewhere in the middle and we were preparing for guys we didn’t like, and move back in the draft. It’s the same thing we do every year, prepare for any situation that comes up.”

But this draft felt different, in part because the Celtics were beginning further back than recent years in which includes Boston having the No. 3 overall pick in back-to-back drafts. 

And just like Boston seemed to get great value out of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum from the last two drafts, they are hoping for continued draft success in adding Williams who at one point was considered a player with lottery (top-14) pick talent. 

“Robert will have opportunities to play, but that will depend on how well he plays, what he does,” Ainge said.

Williams’ head coach Billy Kennedy echoed similar sentiments.

“He’s a special talent,” Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy told Boston Sports Tonight. “He can do things some of the other guys in the draft can’t do.”

Which made staying patient and not aggressively trying to move up in the draft, a worthwhile decision for Ainge in Boston landing a player that they did not go into the draft anticipating would be available to them if they stood pat with the 27th overall pick.