12/31 Game Preview: Suns at Celtics
Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns aim to come out of the year on a high note when they visit Jaylen Brown and the Boston Celtics in a New Year's Eve matinee on Friday afternoon.
Booker helped the Suns get back on track following back-to-back losses by scoring 38 points in a 115-97 home win against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.
The 25-year-old All-Star guard surpassed 10,000 career points in the victory, making him the seventh-youngest player ever to achieve the feat.
JaVale McGee and Cameron Payne each added 16 points for the Suns, who led 85-81 after three quarters in a back-and-forth game. Phoenix outscored the visitors 30-16 in the fourth to put the game away.
The prior two straight losses for the Suns marked the first time the team had dropped consecutive games since losing three of four to begin the season.
"We're going through a funny stretch right now. We're figuring things out," Booker said. "Just moving on to next game mentality. Same as (Wednesday). You know, we got the win, but now we're focused on Boston."
Phoenix had four players -- including star center Deandre Ayton -- in the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocol. Jae Crowder, Elfrid Payton and Abdel Nader also were sidelined in the protocol while Frank Kaminsky (knee) remains out.
Boston will be looking to turn the page after one of its worst shooting performances in recent memory in a 91-82 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.
Brown led all scorers with 30 points but did so on 13-of-36 shooting -- including a 1-of-13 performance from 3-point range. The Celtics made 35-of-101 shots (34.7 percent) from the floor and just 4-of-42 attempts (9.5 percent) from beyond the arc.
Robert Williams III added 16 points, 14 rebounds and a pair of blocks before exiting with a head injury late in the fourth quarter. Al Horford contributed nine points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
Boston has lost three in a row and eight of its last 11 games.
"It's just an (expletive) game," a frustrated Brown said after the loss. "We wanted to come back and respond after not playing too well in Minnesota. We played hard but we ended up in a loss. That's it."
It was the Celtics' second straight game without star Jayson Tatum, who is sidelined in COVID-19 protocol. Starting guard Marcus Smart also missed his second straight contest with a laceration on his right hand.
Joining Tatum in the team's COVID-19 protocol were Enes Freedom, Aaron Nesmith, Bruno Fernando and Justin Jackson. All five remained in the protocol entering Friday, but Smart was removed from the injury report, indicating he will play.
Friday's matchup will be the second meeting between Boston and Phoenix this season. On Dec. 10, the Celtics couldn't keep up with a short-handed Suns squad in a 111-90 loss in Phoenix.
Booker and Ayton were both sidelined, but the Suns used a balanced scoring effort to brush aside the Celtics. McGee put up a season-high 21 points and grabbed 15 rebounds for Phoenix, which had all five starters and seven players total score in double figures.
Tatum had 24 points and seven rebounds to pace the Celtics, who played without an injured Brown.