C's Rout Suns, Move to 56-15
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce blocked out the Suns last night.
Garnett scored 30 points and Pierce had 27 in the Celtics' 117-97 victory over Phoenix at sold-out TD Banknorth Garden.
Garnett made 12 of 19 shots from the field, all six of his free throws, and dished out six assists in 34 minutes. Pierce played 38 minutes and connected on 9 of 16 attempts. Suns forward Amare Stoudemire scored a game-high 32 points.
The Celtics (56-15) snapped a two-game skid overall and a five-game losing streak to the Suns. Boston is 13-1 against the mighty Western Conference at home and 25-5 overall. The Celtics' magic number to clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference is five.
The Suns entered the game with the sixth-best record in the ever-changing Western Conference. With Phoenix appearing to jell of late after the acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal Feb. 6, Stoudemire envisions the Suns making it to the NBA Finals, and wouldn't be surprised if the Celtics were the opponents.
"That would be great," Stoudemire said. "That would be fantastic."
Stoudemire and Garnett had a testy battle during the Suns' 85-77 win at Phoenix Feb. 22. Stoudemire had a game-high 28 points, while Garnett had a team-high 19 in his third game back from a nine-game absence because of an abdominal strain.
Last night, Garnett scored 8 quick points on 4-of-5 shooting to help the Celtics take a 15-8 lead. However, he went to the bench with two fouls with 6:21 remaining in the first quarter.
James Posey, who missed Monday's loss to Philadelphia and Tuesday's practice for personal reasons, entered the game with 2:43 left in the first with Boston up, 25-16. The Celtics finished the quarter with a 33-20 lead after shooting 54.2 percent. Pierce scored 11 first-quarter points and grabbed four rebounds, while Stoudemire had 10 points.
Garnett returned with 9:14 left in the second quarter and Boston owning a 33-26 lead. The Suns took their first lead, 48-47, on a lay-in by Steve Nash with 2:36 left in the half. Nash was nailed with a technical foul after arguing with referee Sean Corbin following his foul on Pierce. Rajon Rondo's lay-in with 0.4 seconds left tied the game at 57. The Suns shot 84.2 percent in the second quarter while outscoring Boston, 37-24, getting 12 points from Stoudemire.
The Suns shot 62.2 percent for the half, while Boston shot 46.7 percent and had 34 points in the paint. Pierce and Garnett each had 14 first-half points. Stoudemire had 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting.
A jumper by Garnett gave Boston a 73-67 lead with 5:03 left in the third quarter. Rondo dribbled past Nash on a crossover before laying the ball in with 2:50 remaining in the quarter to give Boston a 79-69 lead.
O'Neal was called for a technical with 1:24 remaining in the third after he pushed himself away from Rondo and Kendrick Perkins following a foul. Ray Allen hit the technical free throw to give Boston an 80-69 lead. Garnett's 20-foot jumper with 1.6 seconds left in the third gave the Celtics an 84-73 advantage.
Pierce's 3-point play gave Boston a 96-79 lead with 8:22 remaining. Garnett's 20-foot jumper made it 102-83 and caused the Suns to call a timeout. With the crowd chanting, "MVP, MVP," Garnett hit two free throws with six minutes left to give Boston a 104-86 lead.
Eddie House, an ex-Sun, nailed consecutive 3-pointers to give the Celtics a 110-88 advantage. With 1:46 left, Garnett and Pierce went to the bench with Boston up, 114-94.