Celtics vs. Suns takeaways: Road trip mercifully comes to an end for C's


At what point is a sample size large enough to draw conclusions from?

Dating back to the start of the 2020-21 season, the Boston Celtics have played 99 regular season games. With Friday's 111-90 loss to the Phoenix Suns, they have guaranteed themselves a record of no better than .500 through their last 100 contests.

Boston was 36-36 in 2020-21 and is now 13-14 in 2021-22.

Sans Jaylen Brown for a fifth straight game -- the duration of their disastrous trip to the left coast -- the Celtics trailed by as many as 25 points in finishing the swing at 1-4.

Jayson Tatum led Boston with 24 points on 10 of 25 shooting -- 1 for 7 from 3-point range -- and Dennis Schroder poured in 15 points on 7 of 15 shooting.

Here are some takeaways from a loss which leaves Boston below .500 for the first time since the middle of November, when it was 7-8:

Marcus Smart turns back the clock, not in a good way

While the Celtics remain as frustrating as ever, the play of Marcus Smart hasn't been quite as erratic as it had been of late. He'd shot a respectable 45% (20 for 44) from the field over the first four games of the road trip for the Celtics, averaging more than four assists per contest.

That all changed Friday, when he missed his first 11 shots from the field en route to a 1 for 13 night (0 for 5 from 3-point range) with no assists.

Smart avoided making Celtics history, if nothing else, but it was about as poor a finish to the road trip as possible for the enigmatic point guard.


Suns were primed to set early

So long as the ageless Chris Paul (he'll turn 37 in May) is in the lineup, Phoenix remains a formidable foe.

But the Suns were without their two leading scorers Friday night in Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, who joined with Paul in leading Phoenix to an NBA Finals appearance last season, a franchise-record 18-game win streak earlier this season and will play a role in getting the Suns as far as they ultimately go next spring.

Yes, the Celtics were missing Brown, but after leading by as many as 5 in the first quarter, were outscored by Phoenix, 32-15, in the second quarter and never recovered.

Young players get some run, and it wasn't pretty

Romeo Langford, Peyton Pritchard and Aaron Nesmith combined to play 48 minutes off the bench, shooting 5 of 16 from the field for 11 points and were an aggregate minus-29.

Veterans such as Al Horford (2 for 8, 0 for 4 from 3, 9 points) and Smart were dreadful as well, but no young player made a compelling case for more playing time Friday.

Home cooking won't come easy

The Celtics start a five-game homestand on Monday night, which is nice and all, but they'll be welcoming in the defending NBA champions in the Milwaukee Bucks. After that, the team with the best record in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors, comes to town.

The homestand finishes with three games which would appear more winnable against the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers and Cleveland Cavaliers, but the way the Celtics are going, who's to say what games are winnable or not at this juncture?

Tip-off against the Bucks at TD Garden Monday is set for 7:30 p.m.