This time of the year, pretty isn’t the name in the game. Winning, however, is.
After dropping three in a row to the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and Cleveland Cavaliers over the course of the last six days, the Phoenix Suns got back on track with an ugly 87-80 victory — but a win nonetheless — over the less-than-stellar Boston Celtics.
Here’s some notable numbers from Phoenix’s first win since March 6:
In just his second game back after a 33-game hiatus (torn meniscus), Eric Bledsoe returned to Phoenix’s starting lineup in place of Gerald Green. Bledsoe finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds for his third double-double of 2013-14. He also added four assists in the victory.
For the first time in four games, the Suns didn’t allow an opposing team to score 30 or more points in the opening quarter. In fact, Boston’s 22 first quarter points were the fewest allowed by Phoenix since a 106-85 blowout win over the San Antonio Spurs back on Feb. 21. That night, the reigning Western Conference champions scored 19 points in the first 12 minutes.
With a win Friday night, the Suns swept the two-game season series with Celtics. Phoenix has swept six different teams (Bobcats, Bucks, Celtics, Nuggets, Pacers and Sixers) this season.
After not playing in Wednesday’s home loss to Cleveland, rookie center Alex Len returned to the Suns’ rotation after Miles Plumlee was poked in the left eye by Celtics center Kelly Olynyk in the second half. Len took advantage of his nine fourth quarter minutes, scoring six points and grabbing three boards. His offense rebound turned three-point play with 54 seconds remaining also turned out to be the game-winning basket.
P.J. Tucker returned to the starting lineup after serving his one-game suspension, and the third-year forward certainly left his mark on the final outcome. The former Texas standout pitched in with his third consecutive double-double to go along with a season-high five steals. Tucker was also whistled for a technical foul in the second half.
While Phoenix notched a much-needed win in the first of their three consecutive road contests Friday, it had little to do with three-point shooting. The Suns connected on only five of their 26 attempts (19.7 percent), and Channing Frye and Gerald Green combined to go 0-of-8 from downtown.
The Suns saw a seven-game streak of allowing teams to shoot 50 percent or better end Wednesday night, but the did one better in Beantown Friday. Phoenix held Boston to a 30.9 shooting night and didn’t allow Brad Stevens’ squad to shoot over 40 percent in any of the four quarters.
Goran Dragic recorded his 31st 20-point performance of the season and fifth in as many as games. Dragic also had four assists on the night.
Not only did the Suns put an end to a 10-game streak of allowing 100 points or more, they played arguably their most impressive 60 minutes of defensive basketball all season long. Ironically, the last time Phoenix allowed a team to score 90 points or less was Bledsoe’s last back on Dec. 30 in Los Angeles. The 80 points surrendered Friday marked a new season low.