Phoenix Suns 88, Boston Celtics 71 — Everything goes right

PHOENIX — Nothing about Friday’s 88-71 victory over the Boston Celtics was typical of the Phoenix Suns basketball team we’ve seen all season.

The Suns blew out the Eastern Conference’s best team Friday night and held a comfortable working margin all game after dropping three in a row to mediocre East squads from Charlotte and Philly and a crummy one from Detroit.

Phoenix held a Boston team that leads the league with 50.2 percent shooting to a mere 34.2 percent marksmanship and 11.1 percent shooting from three a game after allowing the Bobcats, who shoot less than 45 percent, to hit better than half their shots and 52.9 percent from distance.

Not only was this a season-low scoring effort and opponent-season low for Phoenix, the Suns had not allowed such a low percentage since November 2008 and Boston has not shot this poorly since February 2007, when Kevin Garnett was still toiling away in Minnesota.

“Obviously it was a much-needed win for us,” Alvin Gentry said.

The Suns’ defense and the stellar play of their two-headed center monster should have been the story, but instead that thunder was stolen by Kevin Garnett, whose dirty play fired up a Suns team that Steve Nash said was just missing that something extra after the last loss.

With the Suns up 11 with just over four minutes to play, Garnett stepped under Channing Frye as he attempted a jumper for the second time this game and then tapped him in the groin area for good measure.

Like any guy would, Frye took exception and a scuffle ensued that resulted in Garnett’s ejection with two technicals, a Frye technical and techs for Nate Robinson and Kendrick Perkins.

“Somebody felt like they needed to make a play,” Frye said. “They made it, and I just didn’t think it was an appropriate play to make.”

Frye felt Garnett stepping under him a second time was “a little much” and then joked about how every year it’s him getting into an altercation after his skirmish with Earl Watson last season.

But altercations are more than a yearly occurrence for KG, who got into it with Mickael Pietrus a few minutes earlier when Pietrus earned a flagrant 1 by going high with his forearm on Garnett navigating around a KG screen (possibly in retaliation for something earlier that we missed).

One of KG’s famed staredowns ensued, and all was well for a few minutes before Garnett’s love tap on Frye.

Pietrus originally described the play as “just two teams who want to win,” but he later elaborated with an answer about what these scuffles might ultimately mean for Phoenix.

“That’s not who the Suns are. I’ve heard the Suns are soft and everything like that,” said Pietrus, who scored 11 points in his return to the rotation with 24 minutes of playing time. “No, that’s not happening this year. We’re not soft. I’ll make sure when we come out we come out hard. That’s my job.”

The Suns proved they are not soft by standing up to the big, bad Celtics and largely beating them at their own game in a contest that included a 19-19 second quarter and an even more gruesome 13-13 fourth quarter.

That started in the opening quarter when Robin Lopez made his presence felt and putting Boston’s entire front line in foul trouble and then Marcin Gortat continued right along with a career game.

Combined the Gor-pez (or Lo-tat if that’s your preference) front line produced 30 points and 20 rebounds against Shaq, KG and company.

“If we could get that every night we’d be ecstatic,” Gentry said.

Gortat enjoyed a career game by setting a career high in points (19) and coming one board shy of a career high in rebounds (17) while providing a strong defensive presence in 30 minutes of work. He voraciously attacked the boards like Suns fans have always wanted a big to do — on one possession defending a KG jumper and then diving into the paint to corral the board — and he even knocked down a three-pointer at the first quarter buzzer to boot.

“Just to let you know guys, one day it will stop,” Gortat said of his continued career-high performances. “It’s going to go to a certain point and then it will stop. I was sitting at home thinking about a lot of things, and I’m just glad for that opportunity that I have here, and I’m just trying to be productive. I still believe I can do better.”

Gortat would be hard pressed to do much better than this after a contest in which the Suns won the battle of the boards 45-40 over Boston in a game in which only Garnett had more than a quarter of Marcin’s board total.

Every time the Celtics made a run the Suns answered back, and the Suns managed to blow out Boston on a night they shot 43.2 percent from the field and 35.3 percent from three while committing 18 turnovers, which would not have been possible without the ultra-energetic effort that stemmed from Thursday’s tough practice.

“You could see the way we were competing,” Gortat said of that practice. “I was just wondering why we couldn’t bring the same energy and the same toughness to the game, and we did it.

“I think the energy that we brought today was the crucial thing.”

It’s stunning that a Suns team that appeared ready to wave the white flag a few nights ago led the Boston Celtics by more points than any team has all season.

But such was life on an evening in which everything went right for the Suns and everything wrong for the Celtics.

Perhaps some of this can be attributed to lackadaisical play from Boston coming in during the wee hours of the morning, but if the Suns brought this much energy every night they wouldn’t be three games under .500.

“I hope it’s not only one game,” Gortat said of that effort. “We also can’t sit down now and enjoy because we beat Boston.”

The Suns still have their work cut out for them to get back into the playoff race, but if they can bottle up this passion and exhibit this kind of toughness more often it may be too early to abandon hope on this season.

Tags: Channing Frye Kevin Garnett Marcin Gortat Mickael Pietrus

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  • Damian Romano

    I’m not one to say I told you so, but I told you so. Look at the differences in this effort than former games. 1) Rebounding. Not only did the Suns out rebound the C’s 45 to 40, but Gortat grabbed an insane 17 boards. Lopez was still abysmal with respect to the glass, but hey, he did get Shaq in foul trouble early, so we’ll let that slide. 2) Defense. The fact that Boston run’s such a slow moving (predictable) half court set, it allowed the Suns to stay in position without sacrificing their offense. Something they can’t do with every team, but its something to build on. 3) Impact player. It must be said that Gortat was simply unstoppable. 8 for 13 including one from downtown! Sure, he’s not going to be the guy you rely on every game for that type of output, but if anything his confidence should increase and [should] solidify his move to the starting spot.

  • Robert

    This was a great surprise. Especially on the heels of some painful losses recently, winning one that they had no business winning makes up for it. Sounds like it was a strong effort by the home squad, although as Simmons’ mentioned the C’s travel schedule didn’t hurt anything. Good win, if there was ever a time for the Suns to make a run, it would be right now before the trade deadline.

  • HankS

    Wow… does anyone remember the last time a Suns’ center (as opposed to a PF subbing for center) had a 15-plus/15-plus night?

    But how can you lose to Detroit and Charlotte, and then destroy the Celtics? Mind-boogling.

    This from Gentry: “If we could get that [production from our centers] every night, we’d be ecstatic.” You’d be in the play-offs, too, you know…

  • Mike L

    Damian – I think more Suns fans like you and I are concluding that there needs to be a fundametnal shift in attitude about rebounding and defense.

    I didn’t get to watch the game, so can anyone tell me how much of their scoring was from in the paint versus jumpers? From what I’ve read, it was in the paint and if that’s the case I’ll AGAIN say what I’ve said before … ONLY good things happen whey they are taking the ball to the rim and rebounding.

  • Drew

    I loved watching that game! The attitude shift that was mentioned above is great to see. And I really like what Pietris said. He basically self-appointed himself the enforcer of this team. Pretty soon he’ll be close-lining Kobe and we’ll see a new Raja Bell!

    It helped that the C’s played TERRIBLE, but even so, we didn’t allow them to make a real run because of our hustle on D. Even Nash looks pretty good on D when we play with that energy.

    Whatever happens, happens. But I want to see more of that type of effort.

  • Albert

    We need games like these to keep the team in focus and believe in one another. I think our lost to detroit, disrupt the teams focus.
    Suns rising again……………

  • Mel.

    Two little words that have made an otherwise-rocky season worth watching: Gortat, Marcin. He’s been teasing 20/20 potential ever since he touched down in Phoenix, and whether or not he thinks “it’s going to last,” there’s no doubt that he’s become a keystone for the Suns playing serious, competitive ball.

    And hey, someone woke RoLo up for the game. You can’t ask for more than that.

  • Evan

    Over and over again this year this team has let me down i get exited about what i see from them one game, maybe even two or three games, but it never lasts, if they win out until the all star game i will be exited once again until then i am skeptical.

  • Keir

    Good game for Phoenix and an exciting result just when it seemed like the season was going to go down the gurgler.

    It was interesting to note there was no mention of Vince having an efficient game. Vince gets trashed whenever he has a slump but seldom gets a positive comments these days. It is funny how a few honest coments back when he left Toronto turned him into the player people love to hate – funny when what he said was true of so many players in this league its just they didn’t say it. Vince hating is popular, powerful and thoroughly pathetic. It has been a real shame to see this site indulge in it. Cheap – real cheap.

  • AJ

    Even when Vince was slumping I was fairly happy with his performance doing everything except scoring. But the Suns need him to be able to score 18-20 points a game, so I hope he is able to do that. That being said:

    I really think that RoLo has gotten some of his aggressiveness back over the last 6-8 games, and I really do think that Gortat is a 20-20 guy, whether he believes in it or not. :)

    It was amazing to see the suns twin towers dominate the bigs of a team like Boston, and I think last night’s game is a recipe for future success. If the suns continue to attack other teams in the paint then we will be fine. It was really nice to see every one driving to the bucket last night (particularly VC).

    And since there is no way for me to say enough about the suns defense last night, I won’t try. Just keep it up and the Suns can go on a run.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    Keir – Nobody mentioned Vince Carter because there was nothing to mention.

    Just like most of the games for him in PHX, he basically sleep walked through it and then got hot** for a stretch in the fourth quarter.

    **Got Hot: (Vince Carter) Definition –
    Basically, Boston decided to leave him or stop paying attention to him when the game was just about out of reach and Nash began spoon-feeding him while the closest defender was out in Tuscon.

    Outside of that he once again displayed a game that angers so many people over the last few years.

    The only real cheap about the Vince Carter situation is that buyout. Talk about a penny saver…

  • Rob

    Can someone who watched the game tell what happened between Garnett and Frye? Were they going at it all game, or is KG really just that huge of a d-bag? He is such a dishonorable player. I don’t understand how you can have a class act like Ray Allen playing alongside some really scum-of-the-earth-type characters. KG has made a career out of bullying less highly regarded players. He would never man up to someone like Dwight Howard, Amar’e Stoudemire, or LeBron James. His little buddy Pierce is a little (p)wussy too. I’ve never seen a bigger drama queen. I’m from Connecticut, and I unfortunately get to watch a lot of Cel-dicks games.

  • AJ

    Garnett was running his mouth all game long (as he does most nights). He and Pietrus had just had a run in and he then went on to undercut Frye on a three for the second time and whilst doing that he also hit Frye in a rather painful spot.

  • Keir

    Rich when I checked the box score half way through the third Vince had scored most of the points he got so what are you talking about . . .

    I don’t know if Vince is going to be a success or not at for Phoenix but I know that Phoenix fans who have already written him off, and wrote him off before he arrived (like this site), are not being very good fans. Support your players!

  • AJ


    I couldn’t agree more. While I agree VC might not have been all that we wanted, the Suns NEED him to be productive to be successful. So why not root for him.

    Go Suns!

  • mirza

    I was on Marcin band wagon even before Suns traded for him but 20-20 guy? I dont know about all that now. Pietrus deserves more time but i also dont want Dudleys min to decline .. This was a great win for the Suns. Always great when KG hits the showers early,.. Hes dirty and always a loud mouth .. Didnt see this coming, 71 pts against the Suns?

  • Cam

    @Keir, AJ: I don’t think anyone is really rooting against VC, I know I’m not, I think everyone just takes him for what he is, a guy here to collect a paycheck. He is also a guy that most of us hope plays really well so his trade value will jump. He isn’t going to be here next year no matter what. So let’s root for him. If he can play well every night then maybe we could turn him into a young player or a pick that can help the team out in the long run. The reason everyone jumps on his case when he does horrible in the scoring department is because #1 that’s what he is here to do, score #2 his trade value plummets and he is worth nothing to the Phoenix suns if that happens. Then we would just wait and watch him get bought out in the off season. If I ever rip on the guy it’s because I’m a sun’s fan who realizes that we are rebuilding, VC isn’t in our future, and the best way to rebuild faster is to have him play well. Those are the reasons I’m critical of him, that’s it.

  • Michael Schwartz

    I don’t think it’s accurate to say this site has always been negative on VC. Schmitz broke down some stats and concluded VC could do everything J-Rich did offensively and I was fairly optimistic about what he could bring. Vince deserves criticism because he’s shooting 42.9 percent from the floor and has been invisible offensively in a handful of games and he’s also not the greatest defensive player either. He says all the right things, but when you watch his body language on the floor you’ve got to wonder if those words are hollow. I didn’t include him in the recap because Vince having a nice game scoring 17 points wasn’t what I found to be most salient and I don’t write AP-style recaps where you focus on the leading scorers. Like everyone, I hope the guys does well here and that the Suns can potentially get an asset for him.

  • Auggie5000

    I’m glad the Suns manned-up for this one… All they have been missing is pride and cajones. Hopefully they build on it, because despite what most critics say, there is A LOT of talent on this team. It’s been a very frustrating few months because they have not been playing up to potential.

    Let’s cross our fingers and ask Suns Basketball patron saint Cotton Fitzsimmons to pray for us. haha

  • CC

    You’re an idiot for mentioning that he’s shooting 42.9% FG without mentioning that he’s shooting 42.0% from three.

    FG% is a useless stat because it doesn’t take the additional points from threes into account.

  • CC

    Also, why does no one bash Hill when he sucks? He’s shot under 35% FG% in 4 of the last 5 games, yet I don’t see people bashing him. He’s been terrible.

  • Cam

    @CC: No ones bashing Hill because he isn’t supposed to be the “scorer” on the team, VC is. Hill has done that in the past when needed but he is supposed to be one of our lock down defenders. I don’t think being critical of a guy like VC, who literally disappears for extended stretches of the game, is “bashing” him. He was 3-11 against Detroit and 1-6 against Philly. That’s not exactly the stat line for FG attempts I would’ve expected from the “scorer” on the team. Thus I think the criticism for his play in those games was warranted. 35% in four of the last five games is terrible, I agree. I just think that when you are brought in to score like VC was, and when everyone has such high hopes and aspirations for you, partly because we want to see the Suns win and partly because we are hoping to see a good return in the trade market for you, I think the criticism is justified.

  • Cam

    @CC: And VC shouldn’t be shooting threes, we have more than enough guys to do that. He should be slashing to the hoop off of screens or creating his own shot because that’s what we need him to do. It spreads the floor and opens up the three point line for our other shooters when he does that.

  • shawn

    Hill is not a rental sun and actually cares about his team winning. Carter won’t be here long and spends more time talking to the opposing team than taking quality shots.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    @ Keir – You read the box score? I watched the game. VC was invisible until half way through the 4th and only got 17, really, because Boston decided he wasn’t an issue and left him so wide open that a cave man could have made those shots.

    @CC – Yeah, that FG percentage is one of the main reasons why so many are down on half man half decent.

    It shows that he isn’t going to the tin. It shows that he constantly settles for horrible, HOR-A-BULL!! shots.

    Made even worse when you factor in that Gentry is actually running plays for and through him. Something he hasn’t done much for his 2-guard.

    The results should be far greater than what they currently are, and when you consider that Orlando didn’t even hesitate when considering parting with him in order to get Hedo back shows that they felt the same way as a lot of people in the valley do.

    Really, his name should be Vince Asset, because that is all he is being used for in Phoenix.

  • AJ

    I am sort of amused at how this comments section has turned into a debate between what people think of Vince.

    For the record I do not think this blog has been critical of VC, maybe even a bit easy on him since on one on this site has criticized his play, just sort of shown how he can get better.

    I guess from my standpoint, I’m just too lenient with my assessment of his play so far. And as a perennial optimist I want him to be successful so the Suns kick some other team butt.

  • CC

    @CC: And VC shouldn’t be shooting threes, we have more than enough guys to do that.”

    Hes shooting 42.0% from three (equivalent to 63.0% from two) and youre suggesting he shouldnt shoot threes. He has the highest 3pt.% on the entire team, excepting Gortat who is 1-1. Your highest percentage three point shooter should ABSOLUTELY be shooting threes. Lots of them. If you have a 42% three point shooter who is not shooting threes, you are wasting their ability. ESPECIALLY when they are struggling from two (only 43.4%). If I have a player shooting 42% from three, and just barely better -43.4%- from two, I want that player shooting lots of threes instead of twos.

    Not to mention hes a shooting guard. If your shooting guard shouldnt be shooting threes, what position(s) should.

    I will acknoledge he should get to the foul line more, like he did in the last game with 6, but he ABSOLUTELY should be shooting a tonne of threes as well when hes shooting 42%. If anything, he should up his three attempts to 7+ per game.

  • CC

    “”@CC – Yeah, that FG percentage is one of the main reasons why so many are down on half man half decent.

    How can you be down on his FG% when hes shooting 50.9% eFG (effective FG%). That is an excellent percentage.

    Like I said, only uneducated idiots using straight FG%. It is a useless stat that doesnèt mean anything. It measures shooting efficiency, not scoring efficiency, which is all that matters. Effective FG% measurs scoring efficiency from the field by accounting for three pointers. If you dont understand that, I dont know what to tell you other than you dont know or understand anything about basketball.


  • Michael Schwartz

    @CC I agree with you about eFG% and the numbers do show Vince is playing better than he appears to be. The issue is he has taken so many bad fadeaway jumpers and he has not shown much of an inclination to attack the rim, which is what made him such a fantastic player years ago. I certainly want him shooting the open threes that come from this system (the one thing Hedo did well here was shoot the three), but I’d just also like to see him attack the rim more often and try to limit some of the stupid shots he’s taken. Especially the games where he has struggled shooting the ball, it would be nice to see him put his head down and drive some more.

  • CC

    Yes, he should be getting to the foul line more. But that is not mutually exclusive from shooting lots of threes.

    Gilbert Arenas used to shoot a tonne of threes AND get to the free throw line a tonne. He doesnt get to the line much anymore, but in Washington several years ago he did.

    Chauncy Billups is another guy, who, in his prime, had a high number of three point attempts relative to total FGAs, AND a high number of FT attempts relative to his total FGAs.

    Carter is shooting 50.9% eFG% from the field with the Suns, which is a very good percentage, and WELL above his career average of 48.7%. Anyone who complains about his scoring efficiency from the field because his FG% is ONLY 42.9% is simply an uneducated fan who doesnt understand that FG% is a useless statistic, especially for someone who makes a lot of threes.

  • CC

    Just to put into perspective how well Carter is shooting from three for the Suns, if you look at total season stats, there are 18 qualified players shooting 42% or better from three on the season in the NBA, and NONE of them are averaging as many attempts per game as VC is for the Suns.

    To suggest that he shouldnt be shooting threes when hes been this efficient is foolish. I dont want him passing up threes to instead get threes for lower percentage shooters. Maybe if he regresses to his career mean (37.6%), but as long as hes hot, you have to take advantage.

  • Michael Schwartz

    I completely agree with that, but threes aren’t shot in a vacuum. When the Suns rotate the ball and find Vince open or when he has a clean shot in transition, by all means he should take it. Gentry always talks about how guys have to take open shots or this system doesn’t work.

    The issue that people like the artist formerly known as KJ Loyalist has is when he takes lazy, bad shots, which has happened more than I would prefer.

    It’s the same thing with Pietrus for me. When the game is spotting up and gets an open look he’s money, but so often he starts feeling it and starts jacking up bad contested shots. I want Pietrus to shoot the rock (and same goes with Carter), but just not to take lazy fadeaways with a hand in his face.

  • Cam

    @CC: I’m curious, I haven’t looked but are you stating that he is shooting 42% 3PFG or are you saying 42% effective 3PFG because if you are talking about the former then you just contradicted yourself. To further show the poor shot selection involving VC, during the last game he was on a hot shooting streak, had just made a 3 and then a nice cut and take to the rim. Then on a break instead of attacking the rim he throws up a three. The problem was he as the only sun up there with two Celtic defenders back. After the miss, as he returned back to the defensive end they (espn) showed Gentry, who seemed to look a little unhappy, saying something to Vince. If you saw the sequence you would see why a coach would be unhappy, poor shot selection.

  • CC

    “@CC: I’m curious, I haven’t looked but are you stating that he is shooting 42% 3PFG or are you saying 42% effective 3PFG because if you are talking about the former then you just contradicted yourself.”

    I can’t even decipher this nonsense so I’m not going to. And no, I did not contradict myself. He is shooting 42.0% from three with the Suns, 50.9% eFG%. He is a career 48.7% eFG% shooter, so if you’re not happy with 50.9% than you have ridiculous expectations.

    For reference Kobe only shoots 48.8% eFG% career, and is only around 49% this season.

  • shawn

    I think CC is Vince Carter lmao

  • Kenton

    @Cam: I have long since given up trying to decipher when Alvin Gentry looks happy or not when he’s coaching a game. The man looks like he could snatch flies out of mid air and then ridicule them for being a stupid insect before crushing them. Or putting them in his pocket to freeze later and give them as experiment pets to the Suns medical and fitness staff.

    Naturally, I mean all that in a loving way. I don’t want Gentry to take away my minutes at life if he gets the wrong idea…

  • Elway

    I think you guys OVER analyze every single aspect of each players game. Lets leave it at, this team has some serious talent and some duds that should be traded for a true PF before trade deadline. On that note, GO PHX!!

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    You know it’s funny when it breaks down to eFG percentages, 3 point percentages, FG percentages. That whole debate that unfolded in the above comment donations actually paints an even worse picture for Vince Carter with the suns.

    The whole debate centers around the numbers, because it has to.

    It does not center around how Vince Carter makes this team better, because in the long haul, he does not.

    You can go all Star Trek, Deep Space Nine with all kinds of numbers in an attempt to defend the forgotten Vincanity Empire which lies in ruins somewhere in Toronto.

    It has to translate on the court and you know what? It does not. He has no impact on the team. He is not a boon to the team. He isn’t even a bandage or butterfly band aid.

    You give anybody else on the team, (Dudley, Pietrus, Childress, or Dragon), the minutes and starting role of Vince Carter and they produce what he has contributed since he has come over from Orlando at the bare minimum.

    Talking the talk means nothing if you’re limping the walk.

    THORTAT!!! and his Polish Hammer!? That’s what you want. That kind of effort. That sort of hunger. That sort of impact from a player coming in and talking about how he wants to make the team better.

    I’m still waiting for Gentry to give JMZ back his starting spot. It won’t happen, but I’ll keep waiting.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)


    OK, if you read this and want to answer honestly I hope you will.

    Seriously, what 4 in the league is on your radar who could come in, today, and be Amare Stoudemire?

    That is what it comes down to. In the current Suns system any PF that is brought in has to play Amare’s role on offense.

    They have to be quick enough, and coordinated enough to set that pick and dive with a banshee-like fearlessness towards the rim while scooping up that left-handed, (endangered species-like), pass that Nash tosses.

    He has to finish or get to the foul line and make 7 out of 10 of his foul shots.

    When that isn’t there, he has to be able to nail a jump shot from 15 – 17 feet and in transition, he has to be able to run like an Aston Martin.

    Name those PFs in the league right now.

    Out of those, name the ones that are actually on the trading block.

    Out of those, name the teams that would actually listen to PHX in terms of trade chips not named Steve Nash.

    When all of that is done, I’d love to see the names you still have available on that list.

  • CC

    And I think shawn is Shawn Carter, LOL.

    The idea that Vince has no impact on the team is hogwash. The team was below .500 when they traded J and Hedo away, and they are .500 under VC. They have a better winning percentage under Vince than they did the old guard. It’s clear as day.

    Not only that, but there is NO evidence that any of those guys would produce in a starting role what Vince has. You are speculating on hypothetical scenarios which haven’t happened. You’ve provided no evidence that they could put up similar numbers.

  • Elway

    Jeff Green? Carl Landry? Zach Randolph? Maybe even Blatche of the Wizards. It does not matter if its a big named PF, playing alongside the PG that runs the best pick and roll in the nba it’s easy butter.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    @CC – Dudley would like to talk to you about his production in the few games he started this year along with the games where he received extended burn. His defense also says hello and for some reason, wants you to know that it wears Old Spice.

    @Elway – I’m glad you’re not making deals for the Valley.

  • B. Cray Z.


    Love Dudz.

    When I first met him last year, he had a new born baby.

    Because I love being a dad so much, I greeted him with “Dud is a dad” & it put a HUGE smile on his face.

    Since then, I scream “Dud is a dad” at him each game, every time he makes a play. Does seem to fire him up (like playing with Louis used to) & I know he can hear me from “the look” – that is when he gets that swaggered look – as I try to be the Suns gorilla’s helper (like the Knicks’ Spike or the Lakers’ Jack) from my well-position court side seat.