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Fast Break: Suns rise, Celtics fall … again

01.20.12 at 9:56 pm ET
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Friday night’s Celtics game against the Suns at the Garden was a familiar story: Get off to a slow start, fall behind by double digits, make it close and fall behind again after exerting too much energy playing from behind all night.

The final result: A 79-71 Phoenix victory in Boston.

Ray Allen led the Celtics with 14 points. Paul Pierce (12), Brandon Bass (11), Kevin Garnett (10) and Avery Bradley all reached double figures, but the C’s (5-9) lost their sixth game in seven tries.

Suns center Marcin Gortat totaled 24 points (14 in the first quarter) and 12 rebounds to lead the Suns (6-9). Steve Nash added 11 points and nine assists.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Pole position: Gortat scored almost as many points in the first quarter (14) as the Celtics (15) — on just as many field goals (7) and eight fewer shots (19-11). If Jermaine O’Neal wants to be judged on his defense, let’s just say it wasn’t so good early, and the Celtics were forced to play catch-up all night once again.

Poor paint job: The Celtics simply had nobody capable of getting to the rim and scoring. Their guards weren’t deft enough to get to the hoop, and their bigs weren’t athletic enough to get their shot off cleanly. On multiple occasions, Paul Pierce worked his way into the paint, only to be contested by a quicker defender who could simply jump higher.

Rondo a no go: Let’s face it: At this point, Rondo is the Celtics offense. Without him orchestrating and finding Paul Pierce and Ray Allen on the wings or Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass for open jumpers, everything else falls apart. Even with Rondo, the Celtics offense hasn’t exactly looked pretty this season. Without him, it’s downright ugly. The Celtics succeeded in keeping their turnover total high (18), leading to 20 Phoenix points.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Canada dry: Starting in Rajon Rondo‘s place, the 21-year-old Avery Bradley managed to slow 37-year-old Steve Nash‘s pace, picking him full court on defense. Bradley’s all-out effort just about matched the Suns veteran in scoring, although Nash out-assisted him, 9-1. Regardless, Bradley was one of the best Celtics on the floor.

S’Moore: Forced to trust his young guards, Celtics coach Doc Rivers continues to get more out of E’Twaun Moore than he might have expected. Unafraid of the big moment, the C’s second-round pick took and made a big jump shot to the tie the game at 50-50 late in the third quarter. Moments later, Mickael Pietrus made an even bigger shot, a 3-pointer that gave the Celtics their first lead since 2-0.

Luck be a lady: A woman won $25,000 at halftime in front of a packed crowd (before they started leaving with two minutes left) by picking the correct envelope, a la David Stern in the 1985 NBA draft. That was the only winning going on in the Garden on Friday night.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Marcin Gortat, NBA
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