You’re not going to find many losses that are more simple than the Phoenix Suns’ 99-86 loss to the Boston Celtics Thursday.
Coming off two intense road wins the night prior in Philadelphia and on Monday against Milwaukee, the Suns shot a putrid 6-of-35 (17.1%) from three-point range.
Devin Booker was frustrated. Deandre Ayton was tentative. It affected their impact on the game in a major way.
All that added up to 86 points, the third time this season Phoenix has scored under 100 points, and it was lucky to have 24 points off 23 Boston turnovers.
Suns head coach Monty Williams said he had a moment in the hallway with Celtics head coach Brad Stevens where they both were complaining about some stretches of this compressed 72-game schedule, and even in the first half, the Suns’ back-to-back legs were showing. Williams hated to say he wasn’t surprised by it.
After being down 21-11, the Suns made a 10-0 run before being outscored 32-16 for the rest of the half to go down 16.
The Celtics’ turnovers and some spurts led by Chris Paul and the defense prevented the game from ever becoming a blowout, which it very well could have been.
Phoenix (42-17) was down 19 midway through the third quarter before getting it down to nine later in the quarter. The same happened in the fourth, when a 15-point Celtics lead with 6:08 left got cut to nine again with under three minutes left, but the Suns would never get closer.
The offense couldn’t found a flow all night. A lot of that was because of the shooting and 17 turnovers, but Booker was out of it.
While he shot 6-of-13, Booker had five turnovers and fouled out midway through the fourth quarter. He picked up two quick fouls in the early third quarter, and was clearly playing with a level of frustration, as a player like him that is usually so in rhythm is easy to spot when he’s not.
Williams trusted him to not pick up his fifth when Booker checked back in with 3:28 left in the third quarter, and Booker got that fifth two minutes later. He sat until the 6:08 mark, and 90 seconds later, his fourth offensive foul of the game disqualified him.
At least half of those were iffy calls, something you’d expect Booker to start getting more of the benefit of the doubt on given his status in the league now. When Booker was asked about them, he said it was “just no respect.”
Booker had 15 points, making it under 20 points for him in four of his last six games. He’s had a stretch like that every season, so it’s no reason to be alarmed.
“It’s just part of the game,” Booker said. “There’s gonna be tough nights, there’s gonna be good nights. Just trying to stay consistent.”
With the Celtics (32-27) starting Tristan Thompson and not playing another center, it was a good opportunity for Ayton to be a centerpiece of the game. He settled a bit early, taking a jumper for four of his first five shots. He also had a few catches around the rim where he could have scored, but he passed, and he wasn’t as assertive on setting screens and diving either.
Williams noted seeing those chances at the basket for Ayton, but also said he could have done a better job calling more plays to get the big man the ball. Given the Suns’ shooting performance, it would have been the perfect night to do that.
Ayton produced 10 points and nine rebounds. Mikal Bridges did bring some offense with 15 points, but he was also 1-of-9 from 3. That made Paul really the only Sun to bring it, with 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
Boston got 32 points on 17 shots from Kemba Walker.