April 23, 2018
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Backup center helps lift Suns past Celtics

Mark L. Baer | USA Today Sports
Mark L. Baer | USA Today Sports
Boston Celtics center Jared Sullinger (7) shoots the ball against Phoenix Suns forward Channing Frye (8) during the second half at TD Garden in Boston Friday night.
By Mike Shalin, The Sports Xchange

BOSTON — Backup center Alex Len came off the Phoenix bench because of injury and wound up scoring six key points to lead the Suns to an important 87-80 victory over the Boston Celtics on Friday night.

Len, who didn’t play the first three quarters, replaced Miles Plumlee with 8:53 left and, after scoring three points to help keep his team in the game, converted an old-fashioned 3-point play to break an 80-80 tie with 54.1 seconds left.

The win ended a three-game losing streak for the Suns, who started play in ninth place in the Western Conference, two games out of the playoffs.

Len, who came in averaging 2.3 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, tapped in guard Eric Bledsoe’s miss and was fouled by Boston guard Chris Johnson before making the crucial free throws.

Phoenix then turned up the defense in sending the Celtics to their 10th loss in the loss 13 games. Boston’s last field goal came with 3:18 left.

Bledsoe, making his first start and playing in his second game since suffering a knee injury Dec. 30, had 17 points, 10 rebounds and four assists and fellow guard Goran Dragic scored 20 points and forward Markieff Morris had 15 points and nine rebounds.

Forward Kris Humphries had 11 points and 13 rebounds and Johnson also had 11 points for Boston. Rookie forward Kelly Olynyk had eight points and 10 rebounds and forward Jared Sullinger nine points and nine rebounds despite going 2-of-12 from the floor.

Celtics starters Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Rajon Rondo and Jerryd Bayless combined to go 11-of-45 from the floor, 2-of-12 from 3-point range, where Boston was 3-of-21 for the game.

The teams combined to go 8-of-47 from 3-point range in a sloppy game.

Boston guard Avery Bradley, returning after missing 13 games with a sprained ankle, came off the bench with nine points for the Celtics.

Len came on after Plumlee was slapped and poked in the left eye by Olynyk.

The Celtics led by five points 4 1/2 minutes into the game, but the Suns then ran off 14 straight points over a 3:50 span to take a 22-13 lead. They led by seven at the end of the first quarter but then went cold as the Celtics caught up.

The Suns led by two at the break and it took the Celtics almost four minutes to score in the third quarter. Phoenix then extended its half-opening run to 10-4 to build the lead back up to eight. Three straight trips to the foul line resulted in five points by Sullinger and led the Celtics to a 7-3 finish that left Phoenix ahead by four after three.

Boston then opened the fourth with nine straight points to take the lead for the first time since the first quarter.

NOTES: The Suns were loaded with four former Celtics: G/F Leandro Barbosa, Gs Gerald Green and Dionte Christmas and F Shavlik Randolph, although Christmas did not make it out of training camp with Boston. Former Celtic Jerry Sichting is a Suns assistant coach and former Boston assistant GM Ryan McDonough is the Phoenix GM. He is from Boston but missed the homecoming while out scouting college tournaments. … Phoenix F PJ Tucker returned from a one-game league suspension for throwing an elbow at F Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers. … The Celtics wore sleeved green uniforms with shamrocks on the shorts in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. … The Suns visit Toronto on Sunday and Brooklyn on Monday. The Celtics are at New Orleans on Sunday and Dallas on Monday.


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