Newsroom Notes: Suns Shut Down Celtics
Posted: Jan. 20, 2012
At shootaround today, Suns center Marcin Gortat said that ever since he was a young player in Orlando, he has always been fired up to face Boston.
That fire was on display Friday as Gortat posted a season-high 22 points to go along with 12 rebounds as the Suns captured a 79-71 road victory over the Celtics.
After shootaround, Gortat said that "someone" criticized him before the game and the result was his seventh-straight double-double and his third 20-10 performance in the last five outings.
“They played the pick-and-rolls tough by coming out and jumping hard,” Suns point guard Steve Nash said. “He was roaming in the lane and we found him. He hit some jumpers, layups and some tough little hooks and his confidence just grew from there.”
Scoring 14 of the Suns’ 20 first-quarter points, Gortat set the offensive tone early. But once again, it was the Suns defense that came to their rescue, holding the Celtics to just 16 first-quarter points.
After a defensive breakdown against the Bulls on Tuesday, in the last two games, the Suns have resurrected the defensive form that they demonstrated at the beginning of the season: both victories.
“Our mistakes have been fewer the last couple of games as far as rotations and things like that,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said. “I think that they’ve been able to lock in and be pretty solid in what we’ve done defensively.”
For the night, the Suns held the Celtics to just 41-percent shooting. In addition, no one scored more than 14 points for Boston, which was playing without starting point guard Rajon Rondo.
Moreover, Gentry has stressed all season that for the Suns to be successful, they need to control the boards. His team answered that call Friday, outrebounding Boston 44-32.
The Suns have now won two consecutive contests on this five-game road trip, putting them at 2-2 as they enter their final game against Dallas on Sunday.
Former Boston College standout Jared Dudley came off the bench to score 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting, while Steve Nash contributed 12 points and nine assists.
Hill Re-Emerging as Defensive Stopper
For Suns small forward Grant Hill, the hits just keep on coming. After holding the Knicks’ leading scorer, Carmelo Anthony, to 5-of-22 shooting, he geared up against the Celtics’ biggest scoring threat, Paul Pierce.
For Hill, who asks Coach Gentry for such assignments, the strategy is simple when facing a star scorer.
“I just try to keep him off the free throw line and out of the paint,” Hill said. “With great players like that, you can do everything right and you turn around and the ball goes through the basket.”
After seeing the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant explode against the Suns as soon as Hill left the game, Gentry is trying to keep Hill on the floor whenever the opposing team’s greatest scoring threat is playing. He tries to mirror Hill’s minutes with whoever he’s matched up against, giving the 39-year-old rest when his man heads to the bench.
However, Hill claimed that he didn’t use the same strategy against Pierce that he used on Melo.
“Paul was really the facilitator tonight so we did a good job of defending the screen-and-roll tonight,” Hill said. “Melo was going to try to get more shots up. They’re both great players so I just try to make them work hard for their baskets and know their tendencies.”
It worked. Hill held Pierce to 5-of-14 shooting.
In NBA.com’s annual GM survey, Suns point guard Steve Nash finished first for the player with the “best basketball IQ,” earning 28.6 percent of the vote. He finished ahead of the Clippers’ Chris Paul in that category, but finished three percent behind in the voting as the league’s “best passer.”
Nash finished tied for third in the NBA for “best leader” and tied for fourth with teammate Grant Hill for “which player would make the best coach someday.”
Hill vouched for Nash, saying that he is one of the “smartest players” in the game and one of the most intelligent he ever played with in his career. When asked if he was the smartest, Hill said he couldn’t commit to that because Joe Dumars was right up there with him.
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