By Patrick Whalen
The Celtics finally returned to action after 3 days off on Wednesday night to take on the Phoneix Suns at the Garden. Heading into the game the Celtics injury report again featured some big names as Al Horford was out again for the sixth straight game. Joining him on the injury report was Guerschon Yabusele who was missing his fifth straight game and Marcus Morris, who was questionable going in, was out for the game. The Suns also had some roster changes before the game adding newly acquired Kelly Oubre to the roster. With the Celtics frontcourt injuries, it again gave more minutes for guys like Daniel Theis, Semi Ojeleye, and Robert Williams. With Morris out Brad Stevens had to mix up the starting lineup again, this time going with Irving, Smart, Brown, Tatum, and Baynes.
The injury bug again hit the Celtics again early in the first quarter as Aron Baynes injured his hand while fighting for a rebound, after the game it was confirmed Baynes was diagnosed with a broken left hand (NBC Sports Boston).
The Celtics offense was led by Kyrie who had a double-double with 29 points and 10 assists.
Tatum had 18 points on 7-17 shooting to go with 8 rebounds. Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier each had points and Gordon Hayward had 10 points. The Celtics also got a big boost off the bench from Robert Williams who had 8 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 blocks as he tried to step up in Baynes’ absence with some plays like these.
As a team though the Celtics struggled shooting at just 45% from the field and 39% from three (Basketball-Reference.com). The Celts managed to get off to a fast start jumping out to an 11 point first quarter lead. The Suns battled back in the second quarter but a Marcus Smart buzzer beater gave the Celtics a 3 point lead at the half.
The second half was a different story for the Celtics though as they shot just 31% from the floor in the second half including scoring just 18 points on 21% shooting in the third quarter. This allowed the Suns to take a 6 point lead into the fourth that the Celtics just couldn’t come back from. The Suns would eventually win by a score of 111-103.
The Suns were led by this years number one pick DeAndre Ayton as he went for 23 points and 18 rebounds. Devin Booker also had a good night with 25 points and 8 assists. T.J. Warren also had 21 points for the Suns. The big impact for the Suns though was off the bench in Josh Jackson and newly acquired Kelly Oubre. Jackson had 11 points and 5 rebounds while Oubre had 13 points and 6 rebounds including a late three that killed the Celtics late come back attempt. The Suns were able to win this game mostly because of how they dominated the Celtics on the glass as they outrebounded the Celts 56-37 including 21-9 on the offensive end (Basketball-Reference.com).
When Baynes left the game early on the Celtics lost their only guy who could truly match up with DeAndre Ayton’s size and it showed as he had much more success getting offensive rebounds and second-chance points against Robert Williams and Daniel Theis. The Celtics were gonna need to just outshoot the Suns if they wanted to win but that third quarter killed their chances. This one was now the Suns’ fourth win in a row. It was a tough one to watch from up in the rafters. Yeah, that’s right your boys from the Parquet were at the game up in Section 311 cheering on the Celtics and getting frustrated with them as usual.
Up next the Celtics have a potential playoff opponent coming in on Friday in the Milwaukee Bucks. The Celtics right now are saying that they will most likely be without Al Horford for the seventh straight game and obviously Aron Baynes who the team said will be out for the next 4-6 weeks. But Marcus Morris will be questionable again Friday and Guerschon Yabusele is probable for Friday after missing his last 5 games with an ankle injury. The Celtics will look to stop Giannis and get back to their winning ways as they are now looking for win number 19 on the season and continue to try and gain ground on the top teams in the east.