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Celtics open road trip with loss to Suns

02.19.14 at 11:37 pm ET
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The Suns used a late rally to bury the Celtics, 100-94, Wednesday night in Phoenix in Boston’s first action since the All-Star break.

Boston blew a nine-point lead midway through the third quarter, as the Suns closed out the third quarter on a 15-1 run and never looked back.

Markieff Morris came off the bench for a team-high 18 points, and his brother, Marcus Morris, aided him from the pine with 11 points, including a number of big shots late. Dynamic guard duo Goran Dragic and Gerald Green, a former Celtic, each tossed in 17 points.

Rajon Rondo (18 points, 10 assists, six rebounds) and Brandon Bass (18 points) led Boston in scoring, while Jeff Green (17 points) and Jared Sullinger (11 points) also contributed.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS

Third-quarter breakdown: At the 4:54 mark of the third quarter, Rondo drained a mid-range jumper to push Boston’€™s lead to a game-high 70-61. But the Celtics self-destructed over the final five minutes of the quarter, and a nine-point lead turned into a five-point deficit. The Suns embarked on a 15-1 run, to reclaim the lead after three quarters. Five different Phoenix players scored during the stretch, but late 3-pointers by Channing Frye and Marcus Morris were key. Morris’€™ triple came at the buzzer, from more than 30 feet away.

West road woes: The Celtics‘€™ inferiority against the Western Conference on the road has reached an embarrassing low. With the loss to Phoenix, Boston has dropped all 10 road games out West this season, and the last 15 overall dating back to Feb. 25, 2013, when the Celtics nudged out an overtime win in Utah. Looking ahead, Boston completes its current West road trip against the three worst teams in the West by record: the Lakers (18-35), the Kings (18-35) and the Jazz (19-33).

Bench matchup: Phoenix’€™s bench, and particularly the Morris brothers, outplayed the Celtics. The Suns reserve unit tallied 37 points compared to Boston’s 21. Markieff Morris erupted for 18 points, and 10 of Marcus Morris’ 11 points came late in the contest. It’s not just that the Celtics reserves failed to post large scoring figures, they also went about their play inefficiently. As a unit, they finished 7-for-23 from the field.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS

Bass breakout: Bass continued to chug along in his role as one of Boston’s consistent scoring threats from the forward position. The Celtics’ forward notched 18 points and eight rebounds in his team’s loss. It was Bass’ third game in the month of February with at least 18 points. Bass has been the subject of myriad trade rumors this month, as the 28-year-old forward would seem to be a nice fit for a team in need of offensive help.

Forcing turnovers: One of the ways to combat an uptempo, run-and-gun offense is to limit the opposition’€™s shots and increase its turnovers. That’€™s exactly what Boston did as the Suns’€ turned the ball over 18 times, and the Celtics managed to put up four more shots than Phoenix. Sure, the Suns’€™ fast-break game remained (30 fast-break points), but Phoenix’s 18 turnovers led to 25 points for Boston. Phoenix’€™s starters were the guilty party, as they accounted for 13 giveaways, with Green and Miles Plumlee fumbling the ball a team-high five and four times, respectively. The Suns, however, only turned the ball over once in the final 17 minutes of the game — the time frame when Phoenix mounted its comeback.

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