Celtics

A. Sherrod Blakely's Takeaways from Celtics' bounce-back win over Suns

A. Sherrod Blakely's Takeaways from Celtics' bounce-back win over Suns

Well, the losing didn’t last very long. 

The Celtics shook off their second loss of the season from 24 hours earlier and came away with a solid 99-85 win in Phoenix led by Jayson Tatum’s 26-point, 11-rebound performance for his second double-double of the season. 

It was relatively close until the Celtics closed out the second quarter with a 20-4 run to lead 57-42 at the half. 

Boston (11-2) continued to pull away in the second half in what was a surprisingly cushy win over a Suns team that had won five of its past seven and was playing some of the best basketball in the NBA. 

However, the victory could be bittersweet if Marcus Smart is lost for an extended period with an ankle sprain suffered in the fourth quarter, although postgame comments from Smart and coach Brad Stevens make it sound as if the injury was not as severe as it looked. Smart left after scoring 17 points to go with four assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

Boston’s success on Monday was similar to what they had done in their 10-game winning streak but wasn't apparent in their 100-99 loss in Sacramento on Sunday, a game in which Smart’s potential game-winning shot hung on the rim for what seemed like an eternity before rolling out as time expired. 

On Monday, the Celtics’ defense forced turnovers early on, which took the Suns out of running their offense as efficiently as they are accustomed to. And that kept Devin Booker, who came in having averaged more than 42 points against the Celtics, from ever getting into any kind of rhythm. 

It was a quality win over a quality opponent on the road, a victory that came about by Boston getting back to doing the things that had allowed them to run off their impressive winning streak. 

Here are a few more takeaways: 

MARCUS SMART

We often talk about Marcus Smart as being the heart and soul of this team. It’s hard to imagine anyone being more locked into Monday night than Smart, who knew he had to lead the defensive focus on limiting the high-scoring Booker. Still, as we’ve seen with Smart this season more than any other, he’s intent on showing he can impact the game at both ends of the floor. In addition to leading the defensive efforts, Smart also had a strong game scoring with 17 points. However, the ankle injury makes him questionable for Wednesday against the Clippers in Los Angeles.

DEFENDING BOOKER

Considering how Booker has torched the Celtics for an average of 42.5 points in the previous four games against them, the Celtics had to feel really good about limiting him to just 20 points. And they did so with a multitude of defenders coming at Booker from a multitude of angles via double-teams, triple-teams, tilting in his direction … if it involved defense, chances are high that the Celtics tried it at some point in limiting Booker. Whether Smart is available Wednesday or not, the Celtics will have to employ a similar all-hands-on-deck approach defensively if they are to somehow limit the Clippers’ two best players, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. 

CELTICS BENCH 

This group doesn’t score a ton of points, but they are starting to make the most of their chances to impact what matters most to the Celtics - winning. Brad Wanamaker continues to be their most consistent guard off the bench, scoring 10 points to go with six assists and three steals. Grant Williams, who picked up his first DNP-CD (Did not play- coach's decision) in the loss in Sacramento, maxed out his opportunity to play with four points, two blocks and a slew of hustle plays that Boston absolutely needed from him tonight. The C's also got solid contributions from Robert Williams and Carsen Edwards. 

FIRST-HALF KEMBA

It has been well documented how Kemba Walker has struggled offensively in the first half of most games this season. 

Not Monday.

The Celtics got late-game Kemba, in the first half for a change. He wound up with 19 points, 13 of which came in the first half on 6-for-11 shooting with all five of his misses coming from 3-point range.  

The Celtics really needed Walker to put his imprint on the game early so they could get off to a good start, establish control of the game and pull away in the end. 

“I try to come out and make the right plays,” Walker told NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin after the win.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Clippers, which tips off Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

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Joel Embiid pays Celtics fans the ultimate compliment ... but still loves silencing them

Joel Embiid pays Celtics fans the ultimate compliment ... but still loves silencing them

BOSTON -- Few professional athletes embrace hate like Joel Embiid.

The Philadelphia 76ers big man channeled recent criticism from Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal into a tour de force performance at TD Garden on Thursday night, tallying a season-high 38 points, 13 rebounds and six assists to hand the Boston Celtics their first home loss, 115-109.

Embiid also fed off the Garden crowd, which booed the big man heartily throughout the night.

The 25-year-old tipped his cap to the Boston faithful after the game, admitting the loudest crowd he's ever dealt with in an NBA game was the Garden during a second-round playoff game in 2018.

"They've got great fans. They're loud," Embiid said. "The loudest (game) I've ever been a part of was actually here in Game 2, two years ago in the playoffs.

"We were up by 20 and they made their run. It was loud and my ears were popping. That's the loudest (it's) ever been (for me) in an arena."

The Celtics stormed back to win that game 108-103, taking a 2-0 series lead over Philly en route to a five-game series win.

A year and a half later, Boston wasn't so lucky.

Embiid had been in a bit of funk over his last few games but seemed revitalized by the hostile Garden environment, relishing in making big plays like this dagger 3-pointer in the fourth quarter:

"They talk a lot of trash, and I like that," Embiid said. "It gets me going. I had that fun mentality about me tonight. Just reacting to them and playing off it."

Boston and Philly will meet twice more this season, with the Sixers coming to the Garden again on Feb. 1. Celtics fans can boo Embiid all they want, but they should be warned that it may not have the desired effect.

"Joel really set the tone of how we were going to play today," Sixers teammate Tobias Harris added. "His energy, his interactions at timeouts and dead balls: He was the man today."

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Mavericks, which tips off Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 9:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics-76ers Instant Overreactions: Jayson Tatum's shooting slump hurting C's

Celtics-76ers Instant Overreactions: Jayson Tatum's shooting slump hurting C's

BOSTON -- The Celtics are undefeated at home no longer.

The Philadelphia 76ers handed Boston its first home loss of the season Thursday night, defeating its Eastern Conference rival 115-109.

The Sixers now have beaten the Celtics twice this season and jumped ahead of the C's into third place in the East with the win.

Here are three instant overreactions from Boston's loss, which drops the club to 17-7:

1. The Celtics go as Jayson Tatum goes.

Verdict: Slight overreaction

Tatum hardly needs to shoulder Boston's scoring load, as Kemba Walker paced the C's with 29 points Thursday night.

Tatum also hit a pair of big shots down the stretch to make things interesting. But the 21-year-old guard still shot just 5-for-18 one night after going 4-for-13 in Indiana, meaning Boston now is 3-4 when he scores 17 points or fewer, compared to 14-3 when he tops 18 points.

If the Celtics want to compete with the Eastern Conference elite, they'll need Tatum to bring his A game ... or at least his B game.

2. Enes Kanter just played his best game as a Celtic.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

The Celtics big man tallied a season-high 20 points on 10-of-13 shooting to go along with nine rebounds (three offensive).

But where Kanter impressed the most was on the defensive end, where he held his own with Joel Embiid and kept the All-Star center (somewhat) in check during the third quarter.

3. Ben Simmons is the third-best player on the Sixers.

Verdict: Overreaction

Embiid still managed to get his (game-high 38 points), while Tobias Harris poured in 23 points along with seven rebounds and seven assists.

Simmons? He attempted just six shots, made only two of them (seven points) and didn't really affect the game the way a former No. 1 overall pick should.

Philly's unicorn point guard is a better all-around player than Harris and should be Philly's second-best player, but he's certainly not playing like it.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Mavericks, which tips off Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 9:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.