PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns are coming off of another quality win, this time in Denver against the Nuggets. After a grueling overtime win on the road, how will the Suns respond on a back-to-back against an inferior opponent?
Games like these are what separates the playoff contenders from the pretenders. There’s no question that in Phoenix, the Suns should take care of the Celtics. If they drop the game, it will be because of a number of different excuses.
The fact is, they should win this game and badly need it to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race. Join me as I keep a running diary from US Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona. All times are local.
6:54 — Just over nine minutes until introductions and both teams are on the floor. It’s amusing that Rajon Rondo isn’t much for shooting during warmups. He’s just looking around, taking it easy. I’d think he’d want to work on that rough shooting line.
7:07 — We just had a nice rendition of the National Anthem, followed by some awkward silence as the lights went out for the Suns introductions…they didn’t come back on. Was only 10-15 seconds, but it was still different.
7:16 PHX 6, BOS 3 — In the first two minutes of the game, we got to see a Jared Sullinger isolation in the post, then he popped out on the next possession and hit a 3-pointer. I’d rather him stay outside, to be honest.
7:21 PHX 19, BOS 15 — We’re seeing the full compliment of Rajon Rondo’s toolbox right now, as he’s got four assists, two rebounds and a couple of plays that remind us why he made four consecutive All-Star games. Gerald Green leads the Suns with seven points on 3-for-4 from the field.
7:27 PHX 21, BOS 15 — Want to know why the Celtics are so bad? They just ran a play where Phil Pressey stood outside the 3-point line for 10 seconds to wait for his teammates to get in position…so he could jack up a terrible shot.
7:34 PHX 27, BOS 21 — Gerald Green just got out in transition, and you know what happens…he put together a double-pump dunk while taking off from the dotted line. Green now with nine points and three rebounds.
7:36 PHX 29, BOX 21 — End of the first quarter, with the Suns leading 12-2 in fastbreak points and 20-8 in points in the paint. P.J. Tucker has seven with five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
7:44 PHX 34, BOS 28 — The Golden Grannies are here. I have to say that they do put on quite a show. Cracks me up every single time.
7:51 PHX 40. BOS 37 — The Suns are shooting 54.5 percent to the Celtics 36.6, but nine turnovers by Phoenix have kept Boston in it. That and the fact that Jared Sullinger is doing work in the paint.
7:59 PHX 48, BOS 41 — Gerald Green knocks down another three in transition, giving him 12 points for the night. The Celtics are down to 34.8 percent but have 10 offensive rebounds (to the Suns four).
8:06 PHX 48, BOS 46 — The Suns are racking up the turnovers and the missed free-throws. They are now 4-for-10 from the foul line and have 14 turnovers. Green has four of them, Dragic five.
8:09 PHX 52, BOS 50 — At the half, the Suns are leading, but they can’t be all that happy with their performance. They held the Celtics to 35.3 percent shooting but allowed 10 offensive rebounds. The Suns shot 51.2 percent but turned it over 14 times. Gerald Green led the Suns with 12 points, Goran Dragic led with six assists and Miles Plumlee led with seven rebounds and three blocks.
8:29 BOS 59, PHX 54 — The crowd in Phoenix is always really late getting back to their seats. The Suns are also awfully late getting back to the game tonight, as the Celtics started the third on a 9-2 run. Brandon Bass now leads the Celtics with 16 points and seven rebounds.
8:35 BOS 65, PHX 56 — The Run continues, as we’re at 15-4 now. Gerald Wallace is living up to his “crash” nickname, with four steals. The shooting percentages are starting to normalize as well, with the Celtics up to 40.3 percent and the Suns down to 46.8 percent. The Suns have also entered the penalty at 6:32 of the period, while the Celtics have just one foul at this point.
8:43 BOS 70, PHX 64 — It’s no surprise that Goran Dragic is keeping the Suns in this one right now, after hitting two big 3-pointers. Now if the rest of the group could step it up (especially defensively) that would be nice. The Suns dancers have hit the floor…we all win.
8:51 PHX 76, BOS 71 — Channing Frye knocks down a three after the crowd got into it…because of free chicken tenders. Then, Marcus Morris knocks down a looooong three to end the quarter and the crowd goes crazy. End of the quarter, with both teams shooting 50 percent during the frame. The Celtics made just 2-of-7 free-throws.
9:01 PHX 81, BOS 75 — The kiss cam is on. I REALLY don’t like the kiss cam. It’s almost as bad as when they ask people to flex their muscles. Totally unrelated note — my wife and I were on kiss cam once. We both froze, pretty much like every other person does. OH! The crowd booed the choice of the kiss cam winner. That’s new.
9:06 PHX 88, BOS 83 — With 5:45 remaining in the game, the Suns bring Dragic back into the game for the stretch run. Rondo has been pretty good but he’s just not an offensive threat from the perimeter. It really hurts when his teammates can’t make jumpers for him. Rondo with 18 points, 10 assists and five rebounds, but he’s just 7-for-16 from the field.
9:11 PHX 88, BOS 86 — Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger have made a 3-pointer tonight. Let that marinate a bit. I keep thinking “Felipe Lopez if he improved” when I look at Gerald Green. Both had (have) ridiculous verticals. They really don’t jump, they leap.
9:15 PHX 90, BOS 86 — Suns now shooting just 44.2 percent from the field, but 10 3-pointers have them holding onto a small lead with 2:54 left in the game. Dragic has 17 and the Morris Twins have 27 combined.
9:20 PHX 95, BOS 88 — Have to hand it to Channing Frye. He went from being a feel-good story to being a quality contributor on a winning club. His threes have been huge throughout the season and the last one gives the Suns a seven-point advantage with 1:20 remaining.
9:24 PHX 97, BOS 92 — The Suns break the press and find Markieff Morris for a dunk to extend the lead back to five. Breaking the press and being able to make free-throws are two things playoff teams do. I mentioned taking care of business against inferior teams at the beginning and that’s what the Suns are doing. Just as I say that, P.J. Tucker fouls out by being too aggressive defensively. Not smart.
9:29 PHX 97, BOS 94 — Another mental mistake, this time by Goran Dragic. With under 30 seconds left, Dragic decided to take the ball to the basket early in the shot clock. He missed, with the Celtics securing the rebound. I feel like going back to delete my previous comment about smart play right now.
9:34 PHX 100, BOS 94 — It’s a final. The Suns made some bonehead plays down the stretch, but we’ll chalk it up to being a bit weary after last night’s games. Markieff Morris led the team with 18 points, Gerald Green and Goran Dragic scored 17 each and P.J. Tucker added 10 with 11 rebounds, six assists and three steals.
Michael Dunlap is an NBA credentialed writer who is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief for the Sports Illustrated/Fansided NBA site HoopsHabit.com and the Arizona Sports site HeatWaved.com. He also covers high school sports for The Arizona Republic. Follow me on Twitter!