With the reigning two-time MVP back on the court, the Suns look for another rout when they host the woeful Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.
Without Nash, who missed four games with inflammation in his right shoulder that also forced him to miss the All-Star game, the Suns struggled heading into the break, losing three in a row—their longest slide since dropping four straight from Nov. 3-9.
Nash returned for Phoenix’s first game after the break and led the Suns to a 115-90 rout of the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night.
One of the top candidates to win the MVP again, Nash had 13 points and 12 assists in just 28 minutes and helped the Suns (40-13) build a double-digit lead in the first quarter. Nash, who’s averaging 19.1 points and a career-high 11.8 assists, had eight points and seven assists in the opening quarter.
“On a personal level, it’s nice to just be out there with your teammates, and as a group, it’s a lot of fun to win after three straight losses,” said Nash after the Suns became the second team to win 40 games this season. “It’s maybe good for us that we suffered a little bit, and hopefully we can regroup here.”
While the Suns got good news coming out of the break, the Celtics (13-39) continued their miserable run over the last six weeks. Boston finally ended its franchise-record 18-game losing streak with a 117-97 win over Milwaukee on Wednesday, but couldn’t string consecutive wins together, losing 104-101 to Sacramento on Tuesday.
Boston has lost 26 of its last 29 games since Dec. 20 when Paul Pierce got injured. Even with Pierce back for the last four games, things haven’t gotten any better for the Celtics.
Boston, which began a tough five-game Western road trip with Tuesday’s loss, has lost nine straight away from home and hasn’t won on the road since beating Memphis on Jan. 5. The Celtics trailed by 11 points early in the fourth quarter before rallying, but fell just short when Delonte West missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
West finished with 23 points while Pierce had a team-high 26.
“We’re still trying to learn how to win,” Pierce said. “We’re like the little-brother team in the NBA. We need to learn from games like this. … It was the little things that cost us, like turnovers and offensive rebounds. We have to learn how to work. We’re in a little gutter right now.”
Wally Szczerbiak suffered his fourth ankle injury of the season, spraining his left ankle in the first quarter when he stepped on Pierce’s foot. He finished with no points in eight minutes and may miss this game.
The Suns have won eight of the last 10 meetings with the Celtics and nine of the last 13 in Phoenix. The Suns won 116-111 in Boston on Dec. 8, as they shot 60.6 percent from the field. Marion had 29 points and 12 rebounds while Nash had 16 points and 14 assists.
Pierce finished with 36 points and is averaging 28.7 points in 15 career games against Phoenix.