The Boston Celtics once again got off to a terrible start, falling behind by 13 in the first eight minutes of play, and the only lead they held was by one point in the opening 30 seconds of the game. In the end, their offensive woes were too much to overcome, as they fell 100-91 in their Sunday matinee in Phoenix to a new-look, defense-oriented Suns team led by Devin Booker and Chris Paul.
Though they put together a few runs throughout the game, Boston was never able to get over the hump and steal the lead back. They trailed by 8 at the end of the first quarter, 3 at the half, and 8 once again going into the fourth.
Down the stretch, Devin Booker was able to put the game on ice to send the Celtics to 2-2 so far on their west coast trip. He made a pullup jump shot from the midrange where he just seemed to hover in the air over Kemba Walker, who was trying to disrupt his shot.
Booker would finish the game with 18 points and 11 assists, a far cry from the normal 40+ he drops on Boston, but Phoenix was able to win because of his playmaking abilities.
For the Celtics, Jayson Tatum scored 23 points and dished out 7 assists, but was the only Boston player to score more than 15 points. With Jaylen Brown missing the last two games due to injury, Tatum has stepped up exactly as Brown did while he missed time due to his COVID diagnosis, but his teammates have been slacking. Being the superstar he is, Tatum already carries a heavy load for this team. But when the rest of the Boston roster is struggling as much as they were this afternoon, it makes his job that much harder. On the bright side, though, he continues to show the strides he has made as a playmaker this season, something that was a glaring weakness during his first few seasons in the league.
Nobody exemplifies the Celtics day more than Kemba Walker, who once again struggled. He finished with 14 points while only making 4 of his 20 shot attempts on the day. Though he hit two big 3’s to keep the C’s close down the stretch, he really struggled for the majority of the game. He’s clearly still working himself back from the knee troubles that delayed his season debut, even though he’s been back for a few games now. He seems to be pressing to force his offense to come instead of just letting it flow, and the result has been some pretty ugly field goal numbers so far. The C’s will need him to start figuring things out, as they were 8-3 without Kemba on the court, and only 4-7 since his first game.
One stat that bears watching, which Celtics announcer Brian Scalabrine mentioned on the broadcast, is that the Celtics have played three afternoon games this year, and they’ve been their worst shooting games of the season. Maybe the Celtics players don’t like waking up early, or they need more time before a game to get warmed up than other teams, but it’s a strange trend that is pretty puzzling. Luckily, Boston has only two more afternoon games on their first half schedule, so there shouldn’t be too many more awful shooting performances like today.
Up next for Boston is a matchup with the red-hot Utah Jazz on Tuesday at 10 p.m. The Jazz are winners of 15 of their last 16 games, and hold the best record in the NBA at 19-5. It would be great for the Celtics if Jaylen Brown was able to play in this game after missing the last two. With the offense looking as bad as it did today, Brown’s sweet midrange game and transition moves would be welcomed with open arms. That will be the final stop on this west coast trip, and Boston will head back home.
Overall, it’s tough to take much from this game. Sometimes, the shots just don’t go in, and today was one of those days. We know that the C’s are a good team, they just seem to be working through some issues that will only be solved with more time on the court, hopefully with everyone healthy and ready to contribute.
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