Saturday, March 15, 2014
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Suns survive in win over Celtics

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[March 15, 2014]  BOSTON  The Phoenix Suns know they didn't win a pretty basketball game at TD Garden on Friday night.

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 over him."

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.

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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 game.

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 Olynyk.

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.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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