|Fast Break: Total eclipse of the Suns||03.02.11 at 10:13 pm ET|
Now that the new pieces are settling into place, the Celtics can go about the important business of trying to secure homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. What seemed like a difficult task a few weeks ago has suddenly emerged as a real possibility. In dismantling the Suns 115-103 Wednesday night at the Garden, the Celtics have opened up a modest game and a half lead over Miami (two ahead in the loss column).
With Troy Murphy in the fold and Sahsa Pavlovic soon to follow, the Celtics are suddenly armed with healthy reinforcements for the stretch run. It will not be easy to hold off Miami, but every effort like the one they had Wednesday will help the cause. Yes, there were some anxious moments in the fourth quarter when the Suns sliced a 29-point lead to single digits, but the Celtics were never truly threatened and coach Doc Rivers had the opportunity to get his newcomers some needed minutes.
Late in the game, Glen Davis injured himself when he landed awkwardly on a dunk. If he is out for any length of time that would be a major blow for a team that needs all the time together it can find.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Kevin Garnett has no use for Channing Frye: Lost in all the moves and transactions, Kevin Garnett‘s rematch with Channing Frye was mostly swept under the rug. It was a little over a month ago when Garnett low-blowed Frye and kickstarted a new round of ‘KG is a dirty player’ talk, punctuated by Suns coach Alvin Gentry saying that he had lost respect for Garnett.
Think Garnett was into this game? He dropped 28 points and eight rebounds on 12-for-14 shooting in just 24 minutes and absolutely destroyed Frye, who left the game in the third quarter after running headlong into Vince Carter. By then, Garnett’s work was done and his point was made. (Garnett returned to the game when it tightened up and finished with 11 rebounds).
Speaking of retribution: The last time these two teams played, Rajon Rondo had one of his worst nights of the season, shooting 1-for-6 with seven turnovers. Rondo was at his creative best against the Suns with 14 points, 15 assists and just one turnover.
Defense from 23-feet and in: The Suns were 21-for-54 from inside the arc, and it took a late surge to reach that number.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Defense from beyond 23 feet: The Suns shot 12-for-23 from behind the arc, which kept them in the game.
Growing pains: As nice as that 29-point lead looked, it was mostly built by the starting five. Once they left, a disorganized second unit gave much of it away. With Delonte West out with an ankle injury, the reserves lack a strong point guard to guide them through rough patches.
They got away with it in the first half against Phoenix’s sieve-like pick and roll defense, but they weren’t so fortunate in the second half when Marcin Gortat started erasing every shot in sight. The Celtics figure to have more ups and downs over the next few weeks as they try to figure each other out.
Free throw shooting: Making 67 percent from the line isn’t going to cut it, but more importantly the Suns decided to put Rondo on the line in the last two minutes and he went 2-for-4 (he finished 4-for-7). Hack-a-Rondo is a desperate gamble, but until he becomes at least a 70 percent shooter from the line, it’s going to continue to be a strategy for opposing teams.