The shorthanded Celtics' fight back against the Suns was all for nothing as they choke away their late-game lead and lose 109-106 at the buzzer. Tyler Ulis was big all game for Phoenix, but nothing was bigger than his game-winning three at the buzzer.
IT4 started with eight of Boston's first 13 points. Without Bradley and Horford by his side, Isaiah carried a lot of the load on offense throughout the whole game.
The C's were sharp in the opening minutes, with IT4 scoring eight of their first 13 points. Without Bradley and Horford by his side, Isaiah and the other two normal starters carried a lot of the load on offense throughout the whole game. In fact, Jae Crowder (5), Amir Johnson (5), and Isaiah (10) combined to score 20 of the Celtics' 22 first quarter points.
Boston used six field goals (all of which were assisted) and some free-throws to take a 16-6 lead at the 7:16 mark when Jae Crowder knocked down a three-pointer. However, Boston did not hit a field goal for the rest of the ENTIRE QUARTER. AKA, seven whole minutes without hitting one damn shot! This plummeted their field goal percentage down to 27.3% by the end of the quarter. Despite this, strong defense was able to preserve the green's lead after one:
Celtics shooting 27.3 percent and are on pace for 20 turnovers and Horford and Bradley are out and it's 22-19 Bos.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) March 5, 2017
Fellow "little guy" Tyler Ulis took over for Phoenix in the second quarter. The 5'9" rookie out of Kentucky poured in 13 points in just ten minutes to spark a Suns run:
Tyler Ulis is out here torching the Celtics. Now 6 for 7 with 13 points in 10 minutes.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) March 5, 2017
Ulis went on to outscore Isaiah in the first half by one point while taking nearly half as many shots. While he snapped Phoenix out of their shooting funk, no one had the answer for Boston as the cold shooting continued. After hitting six of their first nine shots, the Celts hit only seven of their 34 attempts. YIKES. That plus sloppy ball-handling (nine turnovers) let Ulis and Devin Booker lead the Suns to a 49-42 halftime advantage:
The Celtics head into the locker room trailing the Suns 49-42. Rough shooting night thus far, as the C's have hit just 30.2% of their shots.— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 5, 2017
By the second half, there was a common theme developing: This game was a battle of the little guys. Ulis was going head to head with the Celtics All-Star guard, attempting his best "anything you can do I can do better" act:
Isaiah acrobatic layup, Ulis tough baseline finish.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) March 5, 2017
Isaiah dime, Ulis dime.
The featured photo of this article really symbolizes the battle between these players, reaching as far as they can to get the win.
Unfortunately for Boston, the rest of the Pheonix roster came to life in the third -- especially Eric Bledsoe. They began getting stops and making some great team plays like this:
Late in the third quarter, the C's finally found their answer: Terry Rozier. Back-to-back threes from Rozier capped off a much-needed 13-2 Celtics run to reduce the deficit to four points:
Terry Rozier with two big threes there. He's now 4 for 5. Celtics slice a 15-point deficit to 81-77.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) March 5, 2017
Rozier's second straight 3-ball made it a 4-point game late in the third. pic.twitter.com/kH1m512AVl— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 6, 2017
Although the Suns kept up their hot play, Boston showed signs of Celtic basketball again. This sequence sums up what I mean (Hustle play plus a classic Isaiah fourth quarter three):
Terry Rozier's extra effort on the baseline steal set up another Isaiah Thomas 3 early in the 4th. pic.twitter.com/VTr1a6jCi1— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 6, 2017
This play was really the turning point the C's, igniting more hustle plays and more clutch threes:
Jaylen Brown and Isaiah Thomas with back to back 3s, but just a relentless Marcus Smart steal kick-started it all. 93-91 Bos.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) March 6, 2017
This second IT three gave Boston a two-point lead:
What time is it? Time for IT to knock down a 3 and take the lead, 93-91 Celtics. pic.twitter.com/OYzFCL4JRa— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 6, 2017
The lead went back and forth in the remaining possessions. Isaiah's driving layup gave Boston the lead, Alan Williams gave it back to Phoenix with a big put-back, and then Crowder had a huge and-1 to recapture it once again for the Celts with 40 seconds left.
The Celtics had it won at that point. They had it in the bag. A series of easy driving layups for Bledsoe, a couple of missed Celtic free-throws, and a stunning miscue gave Tyler Ulis the opportunity to hand Boston a loss:
THOMAS LOSES THE BALL! TYLER ULIS! pic.twitter.com/VKVhw7xYSP— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) March 6, 2017
Ouch. The Celtics didn't really deserve a win the way they were playing, but this one still hurts. Boston will look to bounce back late tomorrow night (10:30 ET) against the Clippers.
Follow Erik Johnson on Twitter: @erikjohnson32
Photo by @Celtics Erik Johnson 3/05/2017 07:52:00 PM Tweet Edit