At Phoenix 11/8: Work in Progress

FINAL (OT)

Boston (7-4): 116- Phoenix (2-9): 109

Top Performers:

Boston:

Kyrie Irving: 39 PTS 7 REB 6 AST 3 STL

Jaylen Brown: 17 PTS 6 REB

Marcus Morris: 17 PTS 8 REB 3 AST

Phoenix:

Devin Booker: 38 PTS  3 REB 9 AST 3 STL

T.J. Warren: 29 PTS 7 REB

DeAndre Ayton: 14 PTS 10 REB

Recap

Thursday night the Celtics headed to Phoenix on the first night of a back to back to face future NBA stars Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton, and the rest of the Suns. From the beginning, things were rough. They came out pretty flat as at 5:18 left in the first they saw their deficit already at 12 as they trailed 15-3. A common theme in this game was that the Suns continued to leave the door open for the Celtics. This, on top of other factors, attributed to the Celtic’s eventual comeback. T.J. Warren gave the Celtics some early trouble as he came through with 14 in the first. The Celtics looked awful as Kyrie seemed to be the only one who could get anything going on offense and even he struggled early on. It’s not even like they were getting bad looks on offense. A lot of open looks were missed by Hayward, Tatum, Horford, etc. They continue to find openings but hitting the shots has been an issue so far this season. Devin Booker got going with a few buckets of his own as the Suns continued to force the issue and took a 32-13 lead into the second.

While this quarter was better than the first in terms of play it still was not ideal. It seemed like everything the Suns were throwing up at the rim was going in and they continually pressed the issues by letting it fly from deep. Marcus Morris provided some offense as he’s done all season but all in all a very poor showing on offense against a sub par NBA team in the Suns. Boston shot 6-24 from the floor in the second and 10-46 for the half. It was even so bad that the rest of the starters (not named Kyrie Irving) combined for 0-15 from the field in the half. It’s weird to say when down 20 but the Celtics were lucky they weren’t down 30+ points. Phoenix could’ve put them out of business for good if they executed a bit more on offense late in the second but they left the door open for Boston as Phoenix led 55-35 entering the break.

The third came and through the first few minutes the frustration continued as Phoenix held their lead and got it to as high as 22 at points. From there, things started to click after an Irving layup, a Marcus Smart pilfer of Booker that led to a fast-break, and a thunderous dunk from Jaylen Brown. Hayward hit a three and the defense of Smart continued as he forced another turnover taking a charge. Kyrie started to insert himself into the thick of things with two threes. One off the catch, then, a pull-up up top above the break. They cut the deficit to 11 at 69-58 and they were playing much better basketball. Like clockwork, they fell asleep again and allowed Booker to rip 6 straight points off in less than a minute to push the Sun’s lead back to 17 and the Celtics once again found themselves nearly down 20 points nearing the fourth. They cut it down a little bit as they trailed 80-65 to end the third. This was doable, they could overcome this, and for as bad as they played I felt good entering the final frame. They outscored the Suns 30-25 in the quarter and outshot them as they went 10-18 compared to the Suns 10-24 from the floor. An underrated quarter as this is where they began to force the issue and get things going on offense.

Booker and Warren continued to give the Celtics fits as it seemed whenever they’d get some momentum one of the two would come down and hit a shot. This is where they actually looked their best on offense it just was overshadowed by the deficit they continued to have to chip away at. Fast-forward to 3:45 left in the game after another Booker jump-shot and the Celtics saw themselves down 94-80 and time was running out. They needed a run and boy did they deliver. In a matter of a minute and a half a combo of two strong Jaylen drives (strong drive Jaylen is the best Jaylen) and a Kyrie bomb from the corner over Ayton propelled the green team to a 9-0 run. The next possession looked like a dagger as Booker hit a ridiculous turn-around and-one off the backboard over multiple defenders with 1:37 remaining (97-89 PHX). Kyrie took matters into his own hands as he hit a three, got a key steal with 13 seconds left, and then dished it off the steal to Jaylen who hit a layup to put things at 98-97. Boston fouled next possession and Warren hit two free throws to make it 100-97. What happened next was a thing of beauty drawn up by ATO King Brad Stevens. The screen print below shows the setup.

Screen Shot 2018-11-09 at 11.23.27 AM.png

Kyrie gets the ball from Morris after running in from the backcourt to suggest they want to get him a head of steam before stepping into a three. Booker bit on the bait as this drew him to Kyrie off of a soft hedge after the hand off from Morris. This split second Booker leaves him allows Morris to spread out to the wing and spot up. Once Booker follows Kyrie off of the hand-off he’s toast. Kyrie delivered a sweet dime between two defenders and got Morris a wide open look (it helps that Trevor Ariza didn’t rotate whatsoever) and he buried it with mere tenths of a second on the clock to send this one to overtime.

Screen Shot 2018-11-09 at 11.25.54 AM.png

FREE BASKETBALL. The Celtics took their first lead of the game courtesy of a Kyrie steal to make it 102-100. Kyrie continued to roast as he finished with a season high 39 points (12 in 4th/OT). Overtime was a whirlwind as each team traded baskets all the way to 109-109. A three by Jaylen in the corner and a Morris layup pushed the lead to 114-109 and from there the defense took over and the hot shooting ran out for the Suns. The Celtics finally decided they weren’t giving this lead back and closed it out for an inspired victory after coming from 22 down.

Takeaways

  • It’s safe to say after a shaky beginning to the season that Kyrie Irving is all the way back and looks as good or even better than he did last year. He looks like himself and really is garnering a command of this offense in terms of scoring and facilitating. He’s also been solid on the defensive end getting some timely steals (3) and holding his matchups to 4-11 from the floor.
  • Terry Rozier had a promising performance after all of the reports that came out about him this week. 10 points and 6 rebounds aren’t the gaudiest numbers but he looked more comfortable and was taking better shots.
  • If they come out how they did last night in tonight’s game vs. Utah they WILL get blown out. They got lucky it was the lowly Suns. You can’t come out like that and expect to win. it’s been a problem with this team as they either get in a hole early, give up leads, or just fall asleep for short stretches. They need to be locked in and hopefully the comeback will help them get into gear.
  • Another game, another great showing from Jaylen Brown on both sides of the ball. He was aggressive going to the basket and hit a huge jumper to give the Celtics the lead in overtime. He also performed on defense as he held his matchups to 6-22 and Devin Booker to 3-12.
  • Quiet games offensively for Tatum and Horford but they rebounded at a high clip and ended up being the two team leaders in +/- posting a +19 and a +18 respectively.
  • The rebounding was a key as they outrebounded the Suns 56-41 (17-4 on offensive rebounds). Ayton and Holmes can really give teams issues on the glass and the Celtics did an exceptional job of boxing out and limiting second chances.

Player of the Game: Kyrie Irving

 In the words of the great Mark Jackson. Mama, there goes that man. What else can be said about Kyrie tonight as he wouldn’t let this team die. 26 second half/OT points on 10-18 fg and 4-8 from three. The box score doesn’t tell the whole story as the degree of difficulty on so many of the shots he hits is so high and he makes it look so easy. Step-back threes over defenders, high arching layups, left hand, right hand, mid range, he does it all and he has every move. What’s notable about his scoring is how unselfish it is. He runs this offense perfectly and gets everybody involved (6 assists) on top of dominating in the scoring category and it’s been fun to watch in the early going. Expect Irving’s assist numbers to increase as his teammates settle into their roles.

Whats Next?

Right back into the fire tomorrow in Gordon Hayward’s return to Utah to face the Jazz (5-6) starting at 9:30 PM ET.

-Chuck

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