Alex Len hasn’t done a whole lot during his rookie season, but he gave the Phoenix Suns a much-needed win Friday night at TD Garden.
Len entered Friday’s action averaging of 2.4 points per game on the season. He eclipsed that number on one play, and it just so happened to be the most important play of the night.
With the score tied at 80-80 and less than a minute remaining in the game, Eric Bledsoe fired up a jumper from the right wing. His shot missed, but the 7-foot-1 Len had already positioned himself perfectly to continue Phoenix’s possession.
Len was standing under the basket in front of the 6-foot-6 Chris Johnson. Boston’s guard hustles his tail off every second he’s on the floor, but hustle wasn’t going to win this battle.
Len rose up to grab the rebound off of Bledsoe’s miss and tipped the loose ball in as Johnson fouled him from below. The ball fell through the net, and Len went on to make the extra free throw to put Phoenix on top 83-80 with 54.1 seconds remaining.
Brad Stevens explained the play by saying, “We got caught on a switch at the end of the game, which we didn’t want to do, and [Len] made us pay by tipping the ball in.”
Boston went on to miss a 3-pointer on its next possession before Markieff Morris and Goran Dragic scored the final points of the game to give the Suns an 87-80 road victory.
Those final two buckets wrapped a bow on Phoenix’s win, but Len’s big play under the basket made it all possible. The seldom-used rookie big man came out of nowhere to score Friday night’s game-winning basket.
Key Box Score Line
Friday night featured Eric Bledsoe’s second appearance for the Suns since Dec. 30. It sure doesn't look like the guard built up much rust over the past three-plus months.
Bledsoe keyed Phoenix’s win over Boston by scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds for the Suns. He accounted for one of the game’s three double-doubles.
The guard was solid all night in shooting the ball while putting pressure on Boston’s defense. He shot 6-of-12 from the field, including a 6-of-9 performance from inside the 3-point arc. He also got to the line for a game-high six free throw attempts, cashing in on five of them.
Bledsoe’s seven defensive rebounds paced his second double-digit rebound performance of the season. He also contributed four assists and a steal during just 29 minutes of action.
As one would imagine, Phoenix was a much better team while Bledsoe was on the court racking up his impressive numbers. The Suns outscored the Celtics by 19 points while he was on the floor, leaving him with the top plus/minus rating of the night.
Box Score Nuggets
- Boston did not score more than 22 points in any of the four quarters.
- Both teams grabbed more than 50 rebounds, led by Boston's 56.
- Eric Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker each grabbed 10 rebounds for Phoenix.
- Kris Humphries grabbed a game-high 13 boards while also tying for the team high in scoring with 11 points.
- Chris Johnson was the other Celtic to score 11 points.
- Boston shot just 30.9 percent from the field.
- Phoenix totaled just 14 assists on 34 made field goals.
- Kelly Olynyk came off the bench to grab 10 boards, including five at the offensive end.
- Boston grabbed 19 offensive rebounds but scored only 14 second-chance points, which is one less than Phoenix scored on just nine offensive boards.
- There were eight ties and eight lead changes in the game.
- Goran Dragic scored a game-high 20 points.
- Boston shot an impressive 19-of-21 (90.5 percent) from the free-throw line.
- Tucker grabbed a game-high five steals.
- Only one of the Celtics starters, Humphries, scored in double-figures.
Quote of the Night
I like to win, and you need both (offense and defense) to win. Brad Stevens on the Celtics not playing well at both ends of the courtMore quotes >>