The “M-V-P” chants reigned down on the parquet floor as Kevin Garnett hit two free-throws late in the fourth quarter in his 30 point effort that lifted the Boston Celtics over the Phoenix Suns 117-97 yesterday evening at the TD Banknorth Garden. This was Boston’s first win vs. the fierce Western Conference opponents in six tries, and only their third win against the team since 2001.
In a game that was tied at the half 57-57, the Celtics came out and played an inspired type of basketball on the defensive end of the court that in return sparked their offensive production. The Suns were held to only 16 points in the 3rd quarter, an impressive stat considering they were coming off a 37 point 2nd quarter showing.
“You could hear the guys when we walked in [the locker room at halftime] saying, ‘We need to do this, we need to do that,’ said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers on boston.com. “And we said, ‘We need to do what we’ve done all year. We’re making no changes.’ And we were very stern; I was very stern about that. That we’re not going to make a change. We’re going to play it our defense… And so we went over what they were doing, and we showed if we played our normal defense, that we’re able be a better team than trying to change. And they did that in the second half. And they were all great at it. So it was a great lesson for us.”
After watching the Celtics performance last night, the rest of the NBA may have learned a lesson as well; you have to play hard for 48 minutes against this team or else you’re in for some serious trouble.
All of the Celtics starters were in double figures for points, led by Garnett’s 30. Paul Pierce had another great performance dropping 27 points on 9-16 shooting from the field and perfect 9-9 from the free-throw line. Kendrick Perkins contributed with a double-double grabbing10 boards and netting 13 points. Ray Allen had a quiet night but still produced 14 points and recorded a season high 8 assists in the win. Rounding out the five, Rajon Rondo also scored 14 points with 6 assists but more importantly kept Suns PG and former MVP Steve Nash in check.
“I just wanted to make Steve play defense on the opposite end,” said Rondo on boston.com. “I made a couple shots early, then I missed a couple, but I went back to it and still made my shots.”
The Suns had won 7 in a row before making their East Coast swing and were welcomed with two games against the top two teams in the Conference; Detroit and Boston. Detroit handed them a 109-105 overtime loss on Monday and the Celtics added to their woes with last nights pounding.
So, which team in the East is better?
“It’s a toss-up,” said Nash after the loss. “Both are terrific teams; two of the favorites, that’s for sure.”
Toss up or not, the Celtics currently hold a 6 game lead in the standings over the Pistons and with last nights win improve to a dominating 24-5 record against the Western Conference. Detroit’s record vs. the West currently stands at 20-8, the second best in the East only behind Boston’s.
The Celtics are home again on Friday with a rematch against the New Orleans Hornets. Led by another MVP candidate Chris Paul, the Hornets beat Boston last week in New Orleans so the C’s will be looking to settle the score with another strong showing tomorrow night.