The Boston Celtics came into the night on a two game losing streak after losing to the Bucks in Milwaukee on Thursday night. It was a very important game for Boston with Toronto, Indiana, and Philadelphia catching up to them in the Eastern Conference standings. The Celtics and Suns met earlier in the season down in Phoenix where Boston came out victorious with a 99-85 win. The difference between that game and this game in Boston was that in the first meeting the Suns were without Deandre Ayton due to a suspension and Ricky Rubio because of an injury. Also, the Celtics were without Jaylen Brown (sprained right thumb) and Kemba Walker (left knee soreness) in this game. Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown are two of the top three leading scorers for the Celtics with Walker averaging 22.1 PPG and Brown averaging 20 PPG.
At halftime the Suns led 60-51 and were in control from the very start of the game. A few years ago Devin Booker had 70 points in a game at TD Garden. He has always found success in Boston and this game was no different with himself and Deandre Ayton leading the way for Phoenix. Boston did make it a five point game in the early stages of the fourth quarter but back to back 3s from Saric and Bridges quickly killed Boston's momentum. It was then 114-111 with around a minute remaining in the game, but Bridges hit a jumper in the paint with 37 seconds left to put the Suns up by five. Then with the Celtics down by three points, Gordon Hayward missed what should have been an easy layup off an inbounds pass from Marcus Smart. Ultimately two free throws made by Devin Booker with 4.8 seconds left ensured the Suns a victory with a final score of 123-119.
Devin Booker had once again another great performance at TD Garden finishing with 39 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Both Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges had 26 points as well. For the Celtics, Jayson Tatum scored 26 points and Gordon Hayward had 22 but the real talking point has to be about Marcus Smart. Smart shot 11 for 22 from behind the arc and finished with a career-high 37 points. He became just the 11th player in NBA history to make at least 11 3-pointers in a game. He also broke the record for the most 3s in a game by a player in Celtics history. Now that would be a great trivia question. What player has the most 3s in a game in Celtics history? Many would probably guess Larry Bird, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, maybe even Isaiah Thomas. Nope, the answer is actually Marcus Smart out of all people! I don't even know what's more incredible: the fact that he scored 11 3s, the fact that he shot 22 3s or the fact that only four of his points were not 3-pointers. Smart's shooting did keep Boston in the game but in the end it was a wasted performance as the Celtics came up just short. Smart being the unselfish player he is said after the game "Right now, it means nothing. I'd trade all that in for a win, especially the way the team has been playing."
The Suns have now won four of their last five games. The Celtics meanwhile are going in the opposite direction losing three straight and going 2-6 in their last eight games. The absence of Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown proved to be costly in this game. Things don't get any easier for the Celtics as they prepare to host the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday in what should be a very tough test on MLK day in primetime on national TV where many across the country will be tuning in. Obviously it would be a big bonus for the Celtics if Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown are available for that game which remains to be seen. The nice start to the season perhaps was a little bit deceiving as they are currently in a slump and will look to bounce back against one of the best teams in the league which will be no easy task by any means.