“We’re trying to shock the world right now.”
Those were the words of Jason Richardson courtside at TD Garden in Boston Friday night. That was after the game. And the 48 minutes before did just what he wanted.
Taking on the Boston Celtics and their league best 6-0 record, the Suns shocked the world with a 110-103 victory.
The Suns came out of the gate confident that they had the means to compete. They did more than compete, and in some senses, they dominated the Celtics.
After taking a lead with 1:18 remaining in the first quarter, the Suns never looked back, holding onto the lead until the final buzzer. And for every basket, every run, and every momentum builder by the Celtics, the Suns had an answer.
Coming off their first loss to the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, the Suns improved to 5-1 behind an all-around effort, including a bounce-back performance from Jason Richardson. After laying an egg by going scoreless in Orlando, J-Rich went off for 34 points and 10 rebounds, including 6-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc.
The Suns found a way to stop the juggernaut Celts and it was as vintage as could be: run-n-gun. With Phoenix moving the ball up the court quickly, Boston’s defense rarely had time to get set up. Before they had a chance to do anything, the Suns were going to the hoop, constantly forcing a quick-moving game. Coming into this contest, Boston was allowing just 81.5 points per game, but the Suns made it a high-scoring affair like any other.
The speedy play produced 50 percent shooting for the Suns, including 54 percent from three-point range as the team hit 13 deep balls to Boston’s four. The Suns really stepped up their shooting in this game. They knew they wouldn’t be able to penetrate and get to the basket much with Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins down low for Boston, so they made up for it with solid shooting from all over the floor. It was more than impressive, and I can’t say enough about it.
Shooting was certainly key for the Suns, as they were outdone in the paint 60-36 by KG, Perkins, and Rasheed Wallace. KG finished with a season-high 26 points. Amare Stoudemire countered by notching 22 points and seven rebounds. He didn’t let the Celtics push him around, even dunking on Garnett in the third.
Channing Frye was another story. I hate to keep ragging on the guy, but he just keeps giving me reasons to. I’d love to write something great about Frye, but he is so inconsistent. He had eight points and five rebounds in this one, but KG made him look silly more than once. But again, the Suns didn’t win this one on defense (though they played solid D most of the game).
The Suns took a 57-51 lead into halftime and came out strong in the third quarter, hitting two 3-pointers right away. From drawing offensive fouls to making big defensive stops, the Suns just refused to let the Celtics gain any momentum.
The Suns held their largest lead of the game with about eight minutes left when they were up 96-85. After that, things got interesting. Boston went on a 15-8 run to make it a 104-100 game with 2:29 left.
I was afraid that after all the hard work the Suns had put in, they might lose it in the final moments. The final five minutes were just back and forth intensity. Boston’s defense really made a push at the end, but with 51 second left, Nash hit a 3-pointer to essentially end the game. Nash finished with 16 points and 12 assists. He continues to play like the two-time MVP that he is.
This game might’ve ended differently if not for free throw shooting. The Suns came in to the game (uncharacteristically) as one of the league’s worst free throw-shooting teams. But they hit 23-of-30 Friday night while Boston shot a paltry 9-of-18.
This win is exponentially important for the Suns. It showed they can compete with the league’s best with a system that will work against most any team if it works against Boston’s vaunted defense. But more than that, it gives them momentum to finish out the road trip strong. Starting it 2-1 may not look too impressive, but a win over the Celtics is much bigger than a lone notch in the win column.
- The Suns’ bench showed once again that this team is deep, something I doubted in the preseason. The bench played a lot of minutes in the second quarter and they kept the Suns ahead, even extending the lead. Jared Dudley finished with 10 points, including a couple big 3-pointers. He was a plus 14, showing again he can play both ends effectively.
- Goran Dragic is looking better and better. He started the second quarter and was going full cylinder on every play. On one play, he went to the hoop, missed and grabbed his own rebound before scrapping for a second miss. On one particularly impressive play, he drove the lane and went up to the basket only to dish to Grant Hill for an easy bucket. His passing looked good and his court vision is improving every time he gets on the floor.
- The win was Suns coach Alvin Gentry’s 200th, coming a day after his 55th birthday. It was noted before the game that the team had a birthday cake for him on board the flight from Orlando to Boston. Wish I could have seen the likes of Nash and Amare singing happy birthday to their coach.