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Garnet-less Celtics cut Suns down to size

The SportsXchange

PHOENIX -- Without a tired Kevin Garnett, Boston coach Doc Rivers decided to give Jeff Green his first start of the season and play "the mini Celtics" against the Phoenix Suns.

But there was nothing small about Green's performance -- or the margin of victory they rolled up on the struggling Suns.

Jeff Green hit 11 of his 14 shots from the floor and had 13 of his 31 points in the first quarter. It helped Boston score the first 13 points of the game and never trail in a 113-88 rout before the first sellout crowd of the season at US Airways Center - including many happy fans clad in Celtic green.

It took less than three minutes for the swarming Celtics to chase Phoenix center Marcin Gortat to the bench and force the Suns down to their newly adjusted size. The Suns missed four shots and added three turnovers in the first three-plus minutes while Green scored five points, including a step-back 15-footer to give Boston a 13-0 lead 3:27 into play.

"That's what we wanted, to find mismatches and use our quick guys to take them off the dribble," Green said. "We can make it tough on the opposing team.

"The mindset was the same as me coming off the bench: Come in, be aggressive and try to make a statement on the game early by attacking the rim and getting to the line."

Chris Wilcox scored 14 points and Avery Bradley and Jason Terry added 13 points each for the Celtics, who led by as many as 30 points. The win increased the Celtics' lead over eighth-place Milwaukee to two full games in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Goran Dragic had 19 points and 10 assists to lead the Suns, who are now 5-10 under interim coach Lindsay Hunter. The Suns fell to 20 games under .500 for the first time since the 2003-04 season, when they were 29-53 -- the year before Steve Nash returned to the team.

Watching the Celtics dismantle his team was difficult for Hunter.

"A situation like tonight burns at my very being, I think," Hunter said. "That is totally unacceptable, coaching-wise and player-wise. The way we performed tonight, that can't happen. I guarantee you we will change or we be practicing until they kick us out of the gym because that puts a bad taste in my mouth.

"They had no respect for us. I mean that is almost embarrassing. One of their Hall of Fame players didn't play and they still come in here and smack you around like a punching bag. You're at home and there is no resistance."

The lone bright spot in a long night for the Suns came with 6:32 left in the game, when newly acquired forward Marcus Morris entered the game and joined twin brother Markieff Morris on the floor to become just the second pair of twins in NBA history to play on the same team. The first twins, former Suns Dick and Tom Van Arsdale (1976-77), ironically celebrated their 70th birthdays Friday.

Markieff Morris had 11 points, while Marcus had seven.

Playing their 12th game without Rajon Rondo -- they are now 9-3 without him -- the Celtics sat Garnett for the first time this season. Coach Doc Rivers said the 18-year veteran didn't protest the decision "which tells you we're probably a game or two too late."

The 36-year-old Garnett had played all 54 games this year and his 1,309 career games is 20 shy of tying Moses Malone for 10th place on the all-time list.

Rivers was pleased not only with Green but with newcomers like Jordan Crawford (10 points) and Terrance Williams (nine points, four assists) who are stepping into roles for the injury-riddled Celtics.

"The new guys played great and Jeff was phenomenal," he said. "You could see what Jordan Crawford can do, and Terrance played with us this summer in the gym and we liked that he's got point guard ability and he showed that."

The Celtics shot 57 percent from the field, 45 percent from 3-point range and didn't get much push back from the Suns, who missed 14 of 22 shots in the first quarter and scored only 15 points in the fourth.

Hunter said he played Dragic 40 minutes and long after the issue was decided because "I was trying to find guys that could compete. He didn't want to come out. He's a fighter and he's a guy you can count on."

NOTES: Rivers said Garnett, who played 47 minutes in a triple-overtime win over Denver on Feb. 10, took part in the All-Star Weekend looked gassed after back-to-back games at Denver and Los Angeles on Tuesday and Wednesday. "Since that (triple OT game) you can see he's been tired," Rivers said. "After the Denver game, it would be sacrilegious to sit KG against the Lakers but it was a thought. Then watching him play, you're sitting there kicking yourself because that should have been the night." ... Rivers said the addition of former Charlotte big man D.J. White, who has ended his season in China, to a 10-day contract is "pretty much a done deal." With Jared Sullinger (lumbar disc surgery) also out, the team is looking to add another big man as well. ... Dragic has 38 assists in the first three games after the All-Star break, including a career-high 18 Tuesday night in Portland. He joined Rondo (twice) and Toronto's Jose Calderon as players with 18-plus assist nights this season.
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