By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics bounced back from their disappointing loss to the Kings on Sunday afternoon with a thorough beating of the surprising Suns on Monday. Phoenix has been one of the best offensive teams to start the season, but the Celtics handled them pretty easily on their home floor Monday night.
Bouncing back from a loss is important, especially on the second leg of a back-to-back, but it’s how the Celtics bounced back that is most encouraging. They notched their 11th win of the season thanks to some stellar defense, an aspect that wasn’t all that prevalent for the Celtics during their 10-game win streak.
Phoenix entered the night with the NBA’s fourth-best offense, averaging 117.6 points per contest. The Celtics held them to a season-low 85 points on 40 percent shooting, their worst shooting night since they hit just 39 percent of their shots against the Nuggets in their second game of the season (also a loss for the Suns). Boston’s perimeter defense was as strong as it’s been all year, holding Phoenix to a ghastly 27.8 percent (10-for-36) from beyond the arc.
Keeping Phoenix in check starts with keeping Devin Booker in check, and the Celtics were able to do that by double teaming and trapping the shooting guard throughout the contest. Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown teamed up to keep him from getting comfortable, and it worked like a charm. Booker only took 13 shots during the game — matching his season-low — and made seven of them, finishing with 20 harmless points in the loss. With Smart or Brown on him, Booker shot just 2-for-4 for seven of his points (via NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg).
But it was much more than just containing Booker, as the Celtics didn’t allow his supporting cast to make up for such an “off” night. When Brown wasn’t on Booker, he was bodying up with 6-foot-10, 225-pound Dario Saric, who has a bit of a size advantage over the 6-foot-6 Brown. Saric shot just 3-for-13 in his 29 minutes. Old friend Aron Baynes finished well off of his 16.5 PPG average, adding just nine points for the Suns.
Grant Williams also returned to action and got to play some power forward, instead of acting like a 6-foot-6 center. He was all over the place in his 18 minutes, and though he only had four points and two rebounds, he came through with two big blocks in the second quarter. He was a plus-18 in his 18 minutes on the floor. Not bad after being a DNP-CD in Sacramento. Don’t do that again, Brad.
Boston had some good individual defensive performances to start the season, but never impressed too much defensively as a team. During their 10-game win streak, they held just two opponents under 100 points, allowing an average of 106 points over that stretch.
But the Celtics put together their finest defensive performance against a formidable foe on Monday night, the perfect way to bounce back from their second loss of the season. Now the challenge will be continuing that defensive intensity as they close their road trip with tough matchups against the L.A. Clippers and Denver Nuggets.