After the Celtics seemingly got back on track in a pair of wins over the Lakers and Nets, some of their recent offensive struggles returned Friday night in a 106-94 loss to Phoenix at TD Garden.
Despite not having Devin Booker, the Suns stepped up and shot 37.5 percent from three as a team and shut down Jayson Tatum, who was 3-for-15 from the field and 3-of-10 from three-point range. Tatum finished the game with 20 points thanks to 11 made free throws, but this was arguably one of the worst performances we have seen from Tatum all year.
Jaylen Brown was 9-for-21 from the field, 3-of-12 from the three-point line, and 6-of-9 from the free-throw line. Brown finished the game with 27 points, eight rebounds, and four assists.
The Jays as a duo shot 33 percent from the field and 27 percent from three. The Celtics didn’t get enough offense from the guys behind them either. Derrick White (19 points) and Malcolm Brogdon (12) were the only other double-digit scorers. Forwards Robert Williams (6), Al Horford (3) and Grant Williams (0) combined for just nine points despite all playing over 20 minutes.
Friday marked the third time in the last six games that the Celtics have been held under 100 points.
When asked about the loss, Brown said, "Phoenix seemed like they wanted it more than us and they came out and won, and just seemed like we were going through the motions.”
When asked if he was disappointed with the loss, Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzulla said, "Not really disappointed. We can't be inconsistent in how we execute. That's all. Phoenix does a great job managing the game with their offense and ability to execute, and we had spurts throughout the game where we gave up runs and didn't manage it well.”
The Suns played with great chemistry. Four of their five starters scored double digits, and four players who played off the bench in a short rotation provided 35 additional points.
Mikal Bridges led the Suns in scoring with 25 points. Bridges was 9-of-20 from the field and 7-of-7 from the line. Chris Paul finished the game with 15 points, eight rebounds, and three assists. DeAndre Ayton was 9-of-13 from the field and finished the game with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists.
It doesn’t help that the Celtics had 16 turnovers, which contributed to an additional 16 points scored by Phoenix.
Marcus Smart being hurt is a significant factor in the turnover problem and winning in general. This season, when Smart doesn’t play, the Celtics are 8-5 for a .615 winning percentage. When Smart plays, the Celtics are 29-11 for a .725 winning percentage.
Friday’s loss isn’t any reason to panic. However, the C’s need to become more consistent and have some other guys step up if they’re going to overcome the nagging injury bug.