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Through the first six games, the Celtics had mostly dominated the competition, going 6-0. Friday night, the 4-1 Suns came to town with a fast-paced offensive style, looking to hand the Celtics their first loss this season. The two teams make up the typical Offense vs. Defense match-up: the Celtics hadn’t allowed any team to score 90 points prior to Friday’s game, while the Suns hadn’t scored less than 100 this season. Something had to give. When the Suns’ fast-paced ways collided against the Celtics’ lockdown defense, who would prevail?
The Suns kept their 100-point streak alive, crossing the century mark again en route to a 110-103 win over the normally stingy Celtics. Jason Richardson led all scorers with 34 points and 10 rebounds, a game after going scorless in a loss to the Magic. He connected on six of seven tries from beyond the arc, and finished 10-16 overall from the field. He got going quickly, knocking down 14 points in the first quarter alone.
“They could see after the first that I had the stroke going,” Richardson said. “In this offense, every night it’s going to be someone different. It was a feel tonight, like everything you throw up is going to go in. I wanted to come out, be aggressive and take it from there.” (AP Quote)
Steve Nash, who normally has a down game when matched up against Rajon Rondo, finished with 16 points and 12 assists, while Rondo scored 14 points with 11 assists and three steals. On Friday night, Nash shined, hitting a crucial three-pointer with under two minutes left to play in front of the leaping Rondo. Nash’s shot gave the Suns a seven-point lead, which was too much for the Celtics to overcome.
Kevin Garnett had his best game of the year, scoring 26 points (13-20 from the field) with eight rebounds, two steals, and a blocked shot. Obviously, this is an encouraging sign, as KG has looked a bit off over the first six games. If he can get in a groove, then that makes the Celtics that much better.
The bench killed the Celtics, however, as they shot a combined 0-8 from beyond the arc when the team desperately needed threes down the stretch. Rasheed Wallace was the biggest culprit, finishing 4-12 from the field (eight points) and 0-6 on threes.
The Celtics are still continuing a stretch of eight games in 12 days to open the season, which in other words is the NBA’s way to prevent the Celtics from topping Michael Jordan’s 1996-97 Bulls NBA-record season (72 wins). If the Celtics can emerge from the stretch at 7-1, then they’ll be in good shape.
The Celts next take on the pitiful Nets, who are 0-6 after a loss to the 76ers Friday. Even though they’re tired, the Celtics should be able to pick up an easy win on Saturday.