Lately, The third quarter has been the time when the Boston Celtics make their move.
Tonight it was the point when they held on for dear life.
Forward Jeff Green led a monster effort for Boston’s bench, scoring 14 points and Rookie Jared Sullinger chipped in 12 as the Celtics pulled away in the 4th quarter to take a nip-and-tuck home win over the game Phoenix Suns, 87-79.
Sullinger, a steal at #21 in the 2012 draft, also pulled down a game high 16 rebounds, a total that now stands as a season high for both him and the Celtics. Jason Terry added 13 points along with 5 boards and 5 dimes as he, Sullinger and Green all logged starters minutes.
Green provided the fireworks with a couple of thunderous dunks that got the crowd into the game in the 2nd frame and provided a defensive intensity that allowed the Celtics to build double digit leads.
Kevin Garnett was the only Boston starter in double figures as the 1st team had trouble getting untracked both at the beginning of the game and coming back out from the half. Rajon Rondo had 8 points and a matching number of assists while Paul Pierce scored 7 while pulling down 7 boards – quiet numbers all around for the Big 3.
Luis Scola paced the Suns with 16 points and 8 boards while Jared Dudley poured in 14 and crashed the boards for 10 rebounds for Phoenix, who lost their 11th consecutive road game – their worst streak in 3 decades. Marcin Gortat was active on the boards as well, pulling down 14 to go with his 12 points.
Perhaps in the throes of a letdown after the emotional victory at New York on Monday night, the Celtics showed that they were both resolute and deep, winning a game in which the starters were bailed out by the strong bench play.
After a back and forth 1st period, Green and the bench took over the second as the Celtics outscored the Suns by 13 to take a 53-41 lead into the locker room. The starters had lost that lead by the time the teams had reached the midway point of the 3rd period, allowing Phoenix to explode out of the gates for a 17-0 run that briefly gave them a lead at 56-55.
Courtney Lee scored only six points but it was his driving layup after Phoenix had taken the lead that ended the drought and seemed to snap the Celtics out of their funk.
Boston managed to fight their way back for a 3 point lead at the end of the third, then took control of the contest with an 11-2 run to start the 4th to improve their record to 18-17, extending their winning streak to a season high four games.
Phoenix dropped to 12-25 and have lost four straight overall. Their road woes are far from over as the Suns travel next to Brooklyn to face the Nets on Friday night, then catch the red-eye to Chicago for a Saturday night contest against the Bulls.
The Celtics get to enjoy home cooking as they host Houston on Friday night, then take the weekend off before mixing it up with the Bobcats on Monday.