PHOENIX – Lindsey Hunter called a timeout exactly a minute into the game. The Phoenix Suns had ushered two Boston Celtics to the hoop for layups and fallen behind 4-0. They held it together against Boston, which was without Kevin Garnett, until the third quarter before tumbling 113-88 Friday in their first return to U.S. Airways Center after the All-Star break.
Did Hunter see the final outcome on the horizon?
“You mean, two dead layups?” he said afterward. “Yeah. Yeah, I saw it real early.”
The timeout didn’t help, and Boston jumped out to a 13-0 lead in a game that could’ve been confused with a visit from the Los Angeles Lakers considering all the noise coming from the opposing fans.
Jump to the third quarter. Phoenix brought its deficit to 53-48 two minutes into the second half after fighting back with a few short runs. Crisis averted? Not even close.
“They were saying KG wasn’t playing, everybody (on the Suns) was happy and then they bust our asses,” said point guard Goran Dragic, who scored 19 points to go with 10 assists.
Jeff Green scored 31 points on 11-of-14 shooting. Five of those makes were on three-pointers. Boston hit 55.7 of its shots, went 10-of-22 from three-point range and throttled the wilting Suns with a menacing defense.
“I guarantee we’ll change and we’ll be practicing ’til they kick us out the gym, because … that puts a bad taste in my mouth,” Hunter said. “Just being treated disrespectful. That’s what I take that as being – disrespected.”
Answering how he’d handle rotations with the addition of Marcus Morris in the pregame media session, Hunter said that he hadn’t thought about it.
“Whoever’s playing hard and playing well, that’s who we’ll play,” he said. “It’s kind of that simple, really.”
Simple it became. Dragic appeared to be the only player that didn’t frustrate Hunter, and the Suns’ interim coach kept the guard in the game with a garbage unit as the number of players delivering effort dwindled. Read into that as what it is.
“Like I said, we’re going to work until we either weed out the guys that are going to be here, weed out the guys that aren’t going to play the way that we demand, and if that’s five guards then it’ll be five guards,” Hunter said. “If Diante Garrett has to play 30 minutes per night, then he’ll play.”
Garrett did play. Across the board, the effort was so bad in Hunter’s eyes that a lineup of Dragic, Garrett and Kendall Marshall played a large chunk of the final quarter with the Morris twins – this coming after Hunter said before the game that he doesn’t like small ball.
In Boston’s 13-0 start to the game, the Celtics hit four shots that were layups or close to them. Phoenix responded with a 9-3 spurt after Hunter began his substitution patterns early.
After Gortat and Scola had gotten beaten off the dribble by a frontcourt missing Garnett, who was out with “rest,” Hunter went with a lineup of Dragic, Johnson, Tucker, Beasley and Markieff Morris.
Boston held a 53-41 lead at half with the Suns tossing the ball away nine times, missing the few open shots they found, and struggling with the Celtics’ speedy frontcourt players that burned Phoenix in both the halfcourt and transition.
Phoenix brought the deficit to 53-48 two minutes into the second half, and then it fell apart. It was nothing other than poor defense and no semblance of order on offense as the Suns shot 41.7 percent on the night. Boston led 81-67 after the third, then piled up 32 points in the fourth as the shooting percentages for the quarter went 31.8 for Phoenix and 70.6 for the Celtics.
“A situation like tonight, it burns at my very being tonight,” Hunter said. “That’s totally unacceptable coaching-wise, player-wise. The way we performed tonight, that can’t happen. I know people all the time say you can’t coach effort. I disagree. If I have to coach effort, then that’s what I’ll do.”
Beasley prematurely leaves the game
Michael Beasley was yanked in the fourth quarter for Diante Garrett as Hunter went with a surprising lineup of three point guards. Beasley went to the locker room right after, and Suns officials said an elbow injury was being examined.
Hunter said he didn’t know why Beasley went to the locker room.
“I have no idea,” he said.
Paul Coro reports that an X-ray was taken and was negative.
It was unclear when Beasley injured himself, or if it was even in the game. He struggled mightily, once picking up a steal with two Suns alone in front of him on a break before he overthrew his target by a good 10 yards. Beasley shot 2-of-8 from the floor and had six points and five rebounds.
Marcus Morris debuts, Diante Garrett gets burn
With the game out of hand Marcus Morris saw playing time alongside Markieff Morris with the three guard lineup. He posted an active seven points to go with two rebounds and two steals in more than six garbage minutes.
Garrett played nine minutes and picked up two assists, both on fastbreaks.
Quotable: Goran Dragic on the effort of the Suns players: “I’m always going to defend my players. I don’t want to talk about that. That’s a coaching … he has to say something about that. Like he said, if two or three guys are battling, no chance we are going to win games.”