Boston Celtics end 2021 on a good note against the Phoenix Suns

Jaylen Brown #7, Grant Williams #12, and Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)
Jaylen Brown #7, Grant Williams #12, and Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images) /

The Boston Celtics finished off the 2021 calendar year with a commanding 123-108 victory over the Phoenix Suns, once again leaving Celtics fans everywhere confused with the state of this team. Boston had previously suffered a pair of embarrassing losses against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Clippers, and they generally appeared to be trending in the wrong direction.

Yet in fitting form, the C’s turned things around just when it seemed like all hope was lost. This is what this team has become. I guaranteed to my family before the opening tip that the Celtics were going to win this game, because that’s just how this team has been over the past year. If only they could have played like this for the entire year.

This win over Phoenix demonstrated the immense potential the Celtics have. Eight players took the court for Boston this afternoon, and seven of them scored double digit points. Boston was also without two of their top scorers in Jayson Tatum and Dennis Schroder, making that feat even more impressive. It was quite a turnaround after this team shot just 9.5 percent from behind the arc two nights before.

There probably wasn’t a more fitting way for the Celtics to wrap up 2021. After struggling so mightily to finish off December, they somehow manage to pull off an unexpected win over the second best team in the Western Conference out of nowhere. This win proves the Boston Celtics are playing well below their talent level, and while that’s obviously a huge issue, beating Phoenix is an encouraging sign for the team as they head into 2022.

The Boston Celtics need to play like they did today on a nightly basis

We all know the Celtics possess a plethora of talent. Tatum and Jaylen Brown are two of the best players in the league, and they have a solid veteran core behind them, as well as some promising young guns, to help their cause. That should result in one of the top teams in the league. Instead, this team is somehow two games under .500.

But there were a few things that really stuck out to me from this game that were particularly encouraging in my eyes. The key takeaway is that the coaching staff came up with a clear gameplan on both ends of the court that was executed to perfection all night long.

Offensively, Boston attacked a Suns team that was missing their center (Deandre Ayton) in the paint over and over again. The C’s took just 27 three point shots on night, which is pretty reasonable compared to the 42 they took against the Clippers the game before. They knew the Suns didn’t have the rim protection they would have if Ayton was available, and they took full advantage of that.

Defensively, head coach Ime Udoka locked in on the Suns star duo of Devin Booker and Chris Paul, and gave them virtually no room to operate. They combined to shoot just 13/41 in this one, and they rarely got any open looks. Even when it looked like Phoenix was poised to make a bit of a run back into the game, the team would buckle down defensively to give themselves time to find their shot on the other end of the court.

This is what this team can be when they go out and play like a team on a nightly basis. That’s also why it’s so frustrating when they lose winnable games over and over again. They should take the film from this game and play it on a loop in the team facilities for the rest of the season so that nobody forgets this is what Celtics basketball looks like.

2021 wasn’t kind to the Boston Celtics, but there’s no reason for them to struggle like they did this year in 2022. The Celtics can go toe-to-toe with any opponent they take the court against; the big question just becomes whether or not they want to.

dark. Next. It's time for the Celtics to change their approach

Things really could go either way for this team. They could finally figure things out, and go on a run to the top of the Eastern Conference. On the other hand, they could continue to struggle, and force the front office to break things up. If one thing is clear though, it’s that 2022 is going to be a pivotal year for the Boston Celtics.