Suns back on track, prepare for slumping Celtics

Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns will look to start a new winning streak when they host Jayson Tatum and the slumping Boston Celtics on Friday night.

After falling 118-96 at Golden State on Dec. 3 to snap their franchise-record 18-game win streak, the Suns got back on track with a 108-104 win at home against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday.

Paul paced Phoenix with 21 points and 10 assists and sealed the victory with a three-point play after his pull-up jumper from the free throw line with 17.1 seconds remaining.

«We just feel the game out and (figure out) a way to win,» Paul said.

Jae Crowder had a season-high 19 points, Deandre Ayton added 14 points and nine rebounds, and Cameron Johnson and JaVale McGee scored 13 apiece off the bench for the Suns, who won despite committing 17 turnovers.

Phoenix led by as many as 16 points in the second half before San Antonio fought back to tie it midway through the fourth.

«I’m proud of the guys,» Suns coach Monty Williams said. «When it got pretty tight, again there was no panic. We came out and executed and guys made big shots.»

It was the Suns’ third straight game without star guard Devin Booker, who continues to nurse a hamstring injury. Booker is not expected to play against the Celtics as he has yet to progress to on-court workouts, according to the Arizona Republic.

Phoenix was also without forwards Frank Kaminsky (knee) and Abdel Nader (knee) against San Antonio.

Boston fell for the third time in four games on Wednesday night in a 114-111 loss at the Los Angeles Clippers.

Tatum had 29 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Celtics, who came within one point on a pair of Tatum free throws with 9.3 seconds left but couldn’t complete their comeback.

«I guess it’s frustrating, but I think we should know how (to start games better),» Tatum said of the team’s slow starts. «I think sometimes we dig ourselves in a hole and then … have a good third or fourth quarter.»

Dennis Schroder added 19 points and eight assists, Josh Richardson scored 17 and Marcus Smart totaled 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists for Boston. The Celtics committed 22 turnovers in the loss.

Boston led by as many as seven in the first half before the Los Angeles took control and went up by as many as 21 in the third quarter.

«The effort and inconsistency is frustrating at times,» first-year Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. «Credit to our guys, they took it to heart what I said at halftime and played harder, more together in the second half.»

Two of Boston’s three losses during its recent skid have come by seven points or fewer, highlighting how much the team missed second-leading scorer Jaylen Brown.

The former All-Star has missed the Celtics’ last four games with a lingering right hamstring issue. Brown’s status for the game in Phoenix remains uncertain.

Boston also played without forwards Jabari Parker (non-COVID illness) and Bruno Fernando (low back spasms) in Los Angeles.

–Field Level Media

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