Soft no more, Suns take down Celtics
PHOENIX – Robin Gortat. Marcin Lopez. No matter the combination
the Suns centers set the tone early in Phoenix’s 88-71 win over the Boston
Combining for 30 points and 20 rebounds, Robin Lopez and Marcin Gortat
played well throughout the game, giving the Suns an inside presence
against a team that makes a living in the paint.
“We wanted to make sure we hit them first because we know they’re
obviously an aggressive team, they kind of feed off that, so we wanted to
set that tone early and try to take away that advantage a little bit,” Lopez
said after the game.
Lopez finished with 11 points – seven of which came in the first quarter –
after an inauspicious start to the game. Gortat, in 30 minutes, scored a
career-best 19 points to go along with a season high 17 rebounds.
“If we can get that every night we’d be ecstatic,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry
said of the production from his big men.
While the production was nice, it may have been the presence Lopez and
Gortat provided that benefited the Suns the most. Because, in a game that
was as physical as it was ugly, it was the “soft” Suns who got the better of
the “tough” Celtics.
“I heard that the Suns are soft and everything like that,” Mickael Pietrus
said. “No, it’s not going to happen this year. We’re not soft. I’m going to
make sure that when we come out on the floor we come out hard.”
Pietrus was one of a few Suns who got into it with the visibly frustrated
Celtics, who got into the Valley late after playing in Portland Thursday
night. Kevin Garnett, in fact, was ejected late in the fourth quarter after an
altercation with the Suns’ Channing Frye. Pietrus also had words with
Garnett during the game, but it was the tiff with Frye that caught
everyone’s attention. That will happen when there is a total of five technical
fouls called in one sequence, including four on the visitors.
Replays appeared to show Garnett slipping his foot under a landing Frye
while extending his fist into the shooter. Frye landed on Garnett and
promptly got in the former MVP’s face.
“Somebody felt like they needed to make a play, and they made it, and I just
didn’t think it was an appropriate play to make,” a somewhat non-
committal Frye said.
Frye did say it was good for the team to be able to play through the
“Teams are going to try to bully us sometimes when we’re starting to shoot
real well or play well and we just got to continue to play our style of
basketball,” he said.
Granted, the Suns’ style of basketball will never be mistaken for what
happened in Friday’s win. As Steve Nash noted, the Suns are just not a
physical team. But, when the time comes, he said they have to be ready.
“We’ve got to stay strong mentally and continue to apply pressure to them
and not let them push us around and gain an advantage,” he said.
Gortat, for three?
The first quarter is winding down and the Suns have time for one last shot.
Naturally, the ball goes to Gortat, who of course would be standing behind
the three-point line. Swish.
“I’m going to tell [Gentry] he has to put in his system, a special system for
me that there’s always an option for me to pop if he wants to,” Gortat
joked. “And, definitely, there’s always the option to put me in the one spot,
I can also handle the ball.”
However, don’t expect Gentry to give Gortat, who is now two of five in his
career from distance, to have the green light to keep firing away.
“We’ll try to take that out of his game,” Gentry said of the three ball.