They also know style points don't matter.
"For us, we don't care if it's pretty or ugly," Suns guard Goran
Dragic said after his team survived and pulled out an 87-80 victory
over the Boston Celtics. "We need to have that win. We were
struggling last three games and that was a huge win for us,
especially on the road.
"We've got two more (at Toronto and Brooklyn) and we're trying to
make playoffs. Every game counts for us."
The Suns (37-28) came in in ninth place in the Western Conference,
two games behind the teams in seventh and eighth. They have just
gotten star guard Eric Bledsoe back from injury and are poised for a
late run at the postseason.
A loss in this one would have hurt.
But backup center Alex Len, a rookie out of Maryland, replaced an
injured Miles Plumlee with 8:53 left. After scoring three points to
keep his team close in his first late-game spot, he converted a
tip-in for an old-fashioned 3-point play that broke an 80-80 tie
with 54.1 seconds left.
Two strong defensive stops and two layups at the other end and the
game was over and Boston (22-44) had lost for the 10th time in its
last 13 games.
"He was huge," said coach Jeff Hornacek. "Obviously, the tip was
huge, but I think just his size in there; he does a nice job of
sliding his feet and getting in good position, making guys shoot
Len wasn't available after the game, but Dragic, talking about the
rookie, said, "That basket was huge. And-one, rebound, tip-in and
the foul and he made the free throw. I think that basket gave us an
extra lift. We played smart of defense contesting shots and after
that we had two fast-break layups."
Len, who came in averaging 2.3 points and 2.4 rebounds per game,
tapped in guard Eric Bledsoe's miss and was fouled by Boston guard
Chris Johnson before making the crucial free throw.
Phoenix then turned up the defense and Boston's last field goal came
with 3:18 left.
Bledsoe, making his first start and playing in his second game since
suffering a knee injury Dec. 30, had 17 points, 10 rebounds and four
assists, Dragic scored 20 points and forward Markieff Morris had 15
points and nine rebounds.
Forward Kris Humphries had 11 points and 13 rebounds and Johnson
also had 11 points for Boston. Rookie forward Kelly Olynyk had eight
points and 10 rebounds and forward Jared Sullinger nine points and
nine rebounds despite going 2-for-12 from the floor.
[to top of second column]
Humphries, who wasn't in the game at the end, stormed away from the
bench with 10 seconds left, throwing a towel.
"He's upset because we lost and he certainly has got a right to be,"
said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. "That was not a good ending. It was
not a good performance.
"I thought we shot probably the worst — worse shots than we've shot
for a while. We missed 65 shots. That's pretty incredible that we
had a chance to win, but that's not good and we need to make sure
that we don't do that again."
Celtics starters Jeff Green (2-for-14, 1-for-7 on threes), Brandon
Bass, Rajon Rondo and Jerryd Bayless combined to go 11-for-45 from
the floor, 2-for-12 from 3-point range, where Boston was 3-for-21
for the game. Overall, Boston shot 31 percent from the floor.
The teams combined to go 8-for-47 from 3-point range in a sloppy
Boston guard Avery Bradley, returning after missing 13 games with a
sprained ankle, came off the bench with nine points for the Celtics,
but was just 4-of-12 shooting.
Len came on after Plumlee was slapped and poked in the left eye by
NOTES: The Suns were loaded with four former Celtics: G/F Leandro
Barbosa, Gs Gerald Green and Dionte Christmas and F Shavlik
Randolph, although Christmas did not make it out of training camp
with Boston. Former Celtic Jerry Sichting is a Suns assistant coach
and former Boston assistant GM Ryan McDonough is the Phoenix GM. He
is from Boston but missed the homecoming while out scouting college
tournaments. ... Green, who has found a home in Phoenix, is 0-of-11
from 3-point range in the last two games. ... Phoenix F PJ Tucker
returned from a one-game league suspension for throwing an elbow at
F Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers — and got a technical
foul in this game. ... The Celtics wore sleeved green uniforms with
shamrocks on the shorts in honor of St. Patrick's Day. ... The Suns
visit Toronto on Sunday and Brooklyn on Monday. The Celtics are at
New Orleans on Sunday and Dallas on Monday.
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