Celtics-Suns takeaways: C's send loud statement in blowout win originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Wednesday night's game in Phoenix was a big test for the red-hot Boston Celtics. They passed with flying colors.
The C's outclassed the Western Conference-leading Suns in a potential NBA Finals preview, 125-98. They were superior on both ends of the court and shot 48.5 percent from the floor to Phoenix's 39.8 percent. The Suns were held to 25 percent (8-for-32) from 3-point range. The Celtics' dominating performance came without their starting bigs, Al Horford and Robert Williams.
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Boston led by as many as 45 points in the win. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown dropped 25 points apiece while Malcolm Brogdon added 16 off the bench. Josh Okogie had a game-high 28 points in a losing effort for the Suns and Devin Booker was held to just 17 points.
Here are our takeaways from the Celtics' victory, which brings them 21-5 on the season. Their road trip continues Saturday night when they take on the Golden State Warriors in an NBA Finals rematch.
A statement win for the Celtics
The C's have blown out their fair share of teams already this season, but Wednesday's rout was different. This was a loud statement to the rest of the league.
Boston somehow made Phoenix, the top team in the West, look like a lottery club. Its 27-point halftime lead was its largest of the season. The Suns conceded and emptied their bench midway through the third quarter with the Celtics leading by 40. Meanwhile, interim head coach Joe Mazzulla left his key players in the game until a couple of minutes into the fourth.
The rest of the league was put on notice a while ago, but this was a reminder of how laser-focused this C's team is on returning to the Finals next summer. Another test awaits Saturday in the Bay against the team that prevented them from bringing home a championship a few months ago.
Jaylen Brown looks like an All-NBA player
Our Early Edition crew got the Jaylen Brown All-NBA talk started Thursday, and Brown added to the conversation with another stellar performance.
Brown was the catalyst for the Celtics with 17 first-half points. It wasn't his most efficient shooting night (9-24 FG, 2-8 3-PT), but the 24-year-old just continues to step up with big plays when he's needed most. He has taken a significant leap on both ends of the floor this season.
With 25 points on the night, Brown has now scored 20 or more points in 16 consecutive games. That's the longest such streak of his career, per The Athletic.
Even more encouraging, Brown turned the ball over only once. It was his only turnover in his last three games.
At this rate, it's tough to deny Brown is headed toward his second All-Star nod and potentially an All-NBA selection.
Perfection from Grant Williams
Grant Williams joined Brown in giving the C's a spark out of the gate. He notched a quick seven points in the first quarter and 12 in the first half.
Williams finished a perfect 6-for-6 from the floor and 3-for-3 from beyond the arc. He was a season-high +32 in his 22 minutes and with 14 points, he has scored in double figures in three of four games so far in December.
The price tag for Williams -- set to be a free agent in 2023 -- is increasing with each game. It's safe to say the Celtics aren't worried about that though as he's been a key part of their success over the last two years and will continue to be on the quest for Banner 18.
Malcolm Brogdon shines in return
Malcolm Brogdon didn't miss a beat in his return to the court after missing Monday's win over the Brooklyn Nets with an illness.
Like Williams, the veteran point guard had 12 first-half points to help Boston pull away early on. He ended up shooting 7-of-9 from the floor and 2-of-3 from 3-point range.
Brogdon tallied 16 points and five assists in 19 minutes off the bench. The Celtics' prized offseason acquisition continues to be a game-changer when he's on the court. He'll stay in the Sixth Man of the Year conversation for as long as he can stay healthy.