Chris Paul, JaVale McGee Power Suns Past Celtics as Boston Suffers 3rd Straight Loss

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIDecember 11, 2021

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 10: JaVale McGee #00 of the Phoenix Suns reacts to a three-point shot against the Boston Celtics during the first half of the NBA game at Footprint Center on December 10, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns defeated the visiting Boston Celtics 111-90 on Friday at Footprint Center.

Suns center JaVale McGee led the way with 21 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks in 26 minutes. He started in place of Deandre Ayton, who sat with a non-COVID illness.

A 25-9 run to end the first half turned Phoenix's small edge into a comfortable 57-39 halftime advantage. The Suns led by as many as 27 points in the second half as both teams went to the benches early.

Boston and Phoenix both entered this game short-handed.

Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (right hamstring tightness) remained out. Boston wing Josh Richardson entered the league's COVID-19 health and safety protocols earlier Friday and missed the contest.

In addition to Ayton, Suns guard Devin Booker (left hamstring strain) remained out.

The 21-4 Suns have won two straight after the Golden State Warriors broke their 18-game winning streak Dec. 3. They are now tied with the Dubs atop the Western Conference standings. The 13-14 Celtics ended their five-game Western Conference road trip with a 1-4 mark and a three-game losing streak.


Notable Performances

Suns C JaVale McGee: 21 points, 15 rebounds, 2 blocks

Suns PG Chris Paul: 10 points, 12 assists

Suns PG Cameron Payne: 17 points, 5 assists

Celtics F Jayson Tatum: 24 points, 7 rebounds

Celtics G Dennis Schroder: 15 points


McGee's Energy, Size Prove to Be Catalysts Toward Suns' Win

The Suns got some bad news Friday when Ayton was ruled out, but Phoenix's depth shined once again.

This time, it was McGee who stole the spotlight. The Celtics simply had no answer for his boundless energy and length, as the veteran big man dominated the paint and created serious problems for Boston on both ends.

The 7-footer had four points, five rebounds and a block in the first six minutes.

Paul found him in the paint with a nice bounce pass that McGee corralled and put home for two:

Phoenix Suns @Suns

CP slick with it.<a href="https://twitter.com/CP3?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CP3</a> ➑️ <a href="https://twitter.com/JaValeMcGee?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JaValeMcGee</a> <a href="https://t.co/g1LxKdxkuE">pic.twitter.com/g1LxKdxkuE</a>

CP3 found McGee again, this time off a missed shot. For this one, McGee used his tremendous length to reach way back to gather the ball and slam it home:

Phoenix Suns @Suns

Pogo stick putback. <a href="https://t.co/vVJs3rGwJ2">pic.twitter.com/vVJs3rGwJ2</a>

McGee helped the Suns keep pace with the C's early as Tatum splurged for 12 points en route to a 16-15 Boston lead midway through the first.

The three-time NBA champion then put on a show in the second quarter, as the 17.5 percent three-point shooter nailed one from beyond the arc:

Phoenix Suns @Suns

πŸ‘Œ JAVALE FROM DEEEEEEP! πŸ‘Œ <a href="https://t.co/mp513UfNm7">pic.twitter.com/mp513UfNm7</a>


He had seven points, three rebounds and a block in the first four minutes of the second quarter.

Boston was faring well enough on both ends to keep this game competitive.

However, the center's dominance put the Suns in position to dominate in the back half of the second quarter. 

It was more of the same in the second half for McGee, as his connection with Paul continued to cause serious problems.

Bally Sports Arizona @BALLYSPORTSAZ

There's no stopping JaVale McGee tonight. <a href="https://t.co/ocl9TE57hU">pic.twitter.com/ocl9TE57hU</a>

Paul ended up finishing with his 13th double-double of the season thanks in part to the McGee connection, which helped the Suns earn a 21-point win despite missing two of their top three players.


Celtics Build a Brick House

The Celtics' offensive performance included a 15-point second quarter, a 21-point fourth quarter, a 4-of-26 three-point shooting outing and a 1-of-13 night from Marcus Smart.

The C's made just 37.6 percent of their field goals as they failed to get anything going against the tenacious Suns defense.

When Boston did get good looks, they simply weren't falling.

The worst stretch occurred in the final eight minutes of the second quarter. Dennis Schroder was the only player who made a field goal in that stretch, hitting three shots.

Granted, the Celtics were without Brown and Richardson, but they entered Friday 21st in the NBA in field-goal percentage and 22nd three-point percentage. The Celtics also sported the NBA's No. 17 offensive efficiency rating, per Basketball Reference.

Friday was the fifth time Boston has scored 90 or fewer points in a game this season, with two of the other contests resulting defeats to the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs.

Boston was able to get away with poor offensive performances in those games against inferior opponents, but the Suns have looked like clear NBA title contenders through 25 games.

Couple that offensive showcase with a defensive effort symbolic of the team's struggles on that end (119.2 points allowed per game during this road trip), and you have a recipe for disaster. Friday was the Celtics' sixth defeat by 11 or more points this season.


What's Next?

Both teams play Monday.

Boston will host the Milwaukee Bucks at 7:30 p.m. ET in TD Garden. Phoenix will visit the Los Angeles Clippers in Staples Center at 10:30 p.m.