Celtics-Suns takeaways: C's snap losing streak with impressive road win

Celtics-Suns takeaways: C's snap losing streak with impressive road win originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Three Key Storylines

  • D-White shines

  • Horford, Kornet provide huge minutes

  • Durant's 45 points not enough

The Boston Celtics still haven't lost three games in a row during the 2023-24 NBA season.

After winning 11 consecutive matchups, the Celtics dropped back-to-back games earlier this week. They avoided a third straight defeat with a hard-fought 117-107 victory over the Phoenix Suns at the Footprint Center on Saturday night.

Jayson Tatum (29 points) and Jaylen Brown (27 points) led the Celtics offensively. Six players scored in double-digits for the C's, including Luke Kornet and Payton Pritchard off the bench. Boston's bench outscored Phoenix's 27-16.

Kevin Durant (45 points) and Bradley Beal (25 points) provided the bulk of the scoring for the Suns. No other Phoenix player scored more than 13 points.

The C's have a league-best 49-14 record and an eight-game lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers for first place in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Celtics will continue their road trip Monday night against the Portland Trail Blazers. But before we look ahead to that matchup, here are three takeaways from Celtics-Suns.

1) White does it all

Derrick White didn't play very well in the Celtics' last two games, scoring a total of just 10 points in losses to the Cavaliers and Nuggets. He was much better versus the Suns and made his presence felt at both ends of the floor.

White scored 10 points on an efficient 5-of-8 shooting, while leading Boston with nine assists and grabbing five rebounds. White was consistently pushing the pace, particularly off of defensive rebounds. The Celtics got plenty of good shot attempts as a result.

The veteran guard's defense also was excellent. You won't find many players who defend better in transition than White, and Royce O'Neal found out firsthand during a fast break in the second quarter.

White's ability to impact every facet of the game in a positive way helps make him so valuable to this team. He's someone who can be trusted to do all the little things, make good decisions with the basketball and dictate the flow of the game.

2) Horford, Kornet step up with Porzingis out

Kristaps Porzingis was a late scratch from Saturday night's game due to right hamstring tightness. His absence forced Al Horford and Luke Kornet to play a larger role at the center position, and they both answered the challenge.

Kornet, in particular, gave the Celtics some great minutes. He scored 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting, along with six rebounds and an impressive block on a Bradley Beal drive to the basket. Kornet has scored more than 12 points only one other time this season (20 points vs. Heat on Jan. 25).

Horford pulled down 12 rebounds in the first half, becoming the first player 37 years of age or older to do that since Tim Duncan 10 years ago. Horford is just the fifth player to achieve the feat since the 1996-97 season.

Horford also chipped in six points, two assists and one steal in 32 minutes. His 3-point shooting has been subpar the last few weeks. He missed his first six attempts from beyond the arc against the Suns and is 5-of-21 over the last six games.

However, the one 3-pointer he did make was a pretty important one. It gave the Celtics a 110-102 lead with 1:54 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Overall, the Celtics got exactly what they needed from Horford and Kornet with Porzingis sidelined.

3) Durant did all he could

Kevin Durant is one of the best players in league history, and he did everything he could to will the Suns to victory against the league's top team.

Durant poured in a season-high 45 points on 18-of-26 shooting. He hit four of his seven 3-point attempts, while also tallying 10 rebounds, six assists and one steal in 37 minutes.

Here's the stat line for Durant's last three games:

  • March 5 at Nuggets: 35 points, 14-of-34 shooting, eight rebounds

  • March 7 vs. Raptors: 35 points, 11-of-19 shooting

  • March 9 vs. Suns: 45 points, 18-of-26 shooting, 10 rebounds, six assists

The Suns are sixth in the Western Conference standings, which isn't too bad considering how many games Devin Booker and Bradley Beal have missed this season due to injuries. One of the few constants for the Suns has been Durant, who is still playing at an MVP level at 35 years old.