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Suns blow two leads, but still win

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BOSTON — The Phoenix Suns gave up a pair of big leads on Monday night, threatening to drop their third game in a row.

But playing against a team that really doesn’t know what to do late in games, Jeff Hornacek’s team found a way to win.

“I was just proud of our guys, with the struggles,” Hornacek said after his Suns moved back over .500 with a 118-114 win over the Boston Celtics. “We’ve played halves and quarters good, but we finally put a little bit better game together for 48 minutes.”

Monday night, they led by 13 in the first half and 14 in the second half. Both leads evaporated, but Phoenix scored the game’s last six points and escaped.

“That happens on the road,” Hornacek said of the game swings. “We get a little lead and they fought, came back and tied it up but luckily at the end we made the plays.”

With the game tied at 114, Suns guard Eric Bledsoe stole an Avery Bradley pass and scored with 29.5 seconds left. Boston forward Jeff Green, who scored nine of his 28 points in the final 4:20, then rimmed a 3-pointer. The Suns got the ball and center Alex Len hit two free throws with 19.8 seconds on the clock.

Down by four, the Celtics inbounded and, for the second straight game in a late situation, guard Rajon Rondo dribbled too long. He wound up throwing up a 3-pointer and was fouled by Len. Rondo missed all three foul shots, falling to 2 of 10 for the game, and it was over.

The Celtics dropped their third straight, all tough ones at home, to fall to 3-6.

“It’s easier said than done,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said when asked about his team’s inability to finish games. “I think the guys did a great job until the last minute or so.”

Suns forward Markieff Morris scored a career-high 30 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out five assists. Guard Goran Dragic had 22 points, six rebounds and seven assists, while Len scored 19 points, including two free throws that basically iced the game with 19.8 seconds left, and had seven rebounds. Bledsoe had 15 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

“He killed us from the get-go,” Stevens said of Morris, who also had seven rebounds and five assists, while his twin brother, Marcus, had 13 points, seven assists and five boards.

Asked about Markieff Morris, Hornacek said, “Markieff, I’ve always said, is one of my best passers on the team. When he can be aggressive scoring like that, then teams are going to have come and do something with him, then he makes the pass. He doesn’t say, ‘Well, I’m going to shoot this one, anyway because I’m hot.’

“He just plays the right way. The more guys you can have who play the game the right way, it makes it easier.”

Len, 21 and a Celtics fan growing up, said, “We had two big losses, back to back and we really needed this win. Last year we started 5-6 and we had to break it. We got to 6-5 and we gotta build on this win.”

Rondo had 14 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, to go with five turnovers and the dreadful foul shooting. Forward Jared Sullinger posted 18 points and eight rebounds and Bradley scored 16. Center Tyler Zeller came off the bench to score a season-high 19 points, and he matched a season high with seven rebounds

The Celtics finished the game 20 of 31 from the foul line, while the Suns were 13 of 16.

Suns rookie forward T.J. Warren, who had played one NBA minute coming into the game, scored his first seven pro points and had two offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter. He was playing because forward P.J. Tucker was inactive, reportedly for missing a team bus.

“T.J’s going to be a great player,” said Hornacek. “He’s not afraid of anything. He’s a pretty good defender. He just has to learn things … we’ve got some good young players on this team that tonight really helped us.”

NOTES: Suns F P.J. Tucker, averaging 6.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, was inactive Monday, the Arizona Republic reporting he missed a team bus. … Phoenix G Isaiah Thomas was 3 of 3 from the foul line and has hit 33 straight, still well short of Steve Nash’s club record of 76. That mark was set over two seasons. Phoenix’s single-season record is 57, held by Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson and Mike Bratz. … The Celtics are in Philadelphia on Wednesday and Memphis on Friday, while the Suns play Game 3 of their six-game trip at Detroit on Wednesday night. … Boston rookies F James Young, the 17th player taken in the 2014 draft, and F Dwight Powell played Sunday night for the Maine Red Claws of the D-League. “There probably will be (more games with the Red Claws),” Young said Monday night. “I’ll have to see. I wouldn’t mind going back for a few more games just to get better.”

Alan is an experienced writer of online betting and casino guides. He is one of the main editors of Basketballinsiders.

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