Suns Set on Celts Who Drop to 5 and 10

Gortat scores 24 to lead Suns past Celts 79-71

By JIMMY GOLEN
AP Sports Writer
      BOSTON (AP) – Marcin Gortat scored five straight Phoenix baskets
early in the game. By the time the first quarter was over, he had
14 points and four rebounds.

      “Midway through the first,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said,
“he should have stopped and put his name on the (Hall of Fame)
ballot.”

      Gortat finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds, and Steve Nash
had 11 points and nine assists to lead Phoenix to a 79-71 victory
over Boston on Friday night. The Suns won their second straight
road game, having snapped a five-game losing streak by beating the
Knicks on Wednesday.

      “Steve put on a show, and people found me in the right spots,”
Gortat said. “We have to start winning. We tripped a couple of
times at home. Now we need to make it up on the road.”

      Gortat, who was one short of his career high in points, helped
the Suns jump to a 16-8 lead with 10 of the game's first 24 points,
then he added a pair of layups at the end of the first.

      The Celtics took a brief lead, 53-50, midway through the third
quarter before Phoenix scored the next 12 points. After Mickael
Pietrus hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to make it 76-71,
Gortat lumbered down the lane and drew a foul from Kevin Garnett
before sinking two free throws to clinch it.
      It was Gortat's seventh consecutive double-double.

      Ray Allen had 14 points and six rebounds for the Celtics, who
lost for the sixth time in seven games and fell to 0-4 against the
Western Conference. Playing without Rajon Rondo, their most
consistent starter this year, the Celtics had their lowest-scoring
game of the season.

      “We should be better than that,” Rivers said. “It's on me. If
one guy doesn't play, you should be able to play through it.”

      Paul Pierce scored 12 points with six assists and Garnett had 10
points and five rebounds. Avery Bradley scored 10 points with four
rebounds and one assist while filling in for Rondo, who was injured
Wednesday night when he took a hard foul from Toronto's Linas
Kleiza while going to the basket.

      An MRI was negative. Rivers wouldn't put a timetable on Rondo's
return, though the point guard was hoping to be back for Sunday's
game against the Washington Wizards.

      Keyon Dooling missed his fifth straight game with a right knee
injury.

      The Celtics finished with 20 assists – same as the Suns – but
just four from three different players at the point.

      “We didn't have our starting point guard. We didn't have our
backup point guard,” Rivers said, adding that he tried to run
plays through Pierce, Garnett and Marquis Daniels. “I mean, we
were just searching.”

      The Suns led by 11 at halftime. Boston went on a 14-2 run in the
middle of the third quarter, taking a 53-50 lead on Pietrus'
3-pointer. With Boston still up by 3, the Suns scored 12 straight
points to take a 64-55 lead early in the fourth.

      Notes: Former Boston College star Jared Dudley scored 12 points
in 19 minutes as a reserve for Phoenix. … New England Patriots
players Deion Branch and Patrick Chung took in the game from
courtside. … Boston C Jermaine O'Neal played in his 900th NBA
game. … With Rondo out, Garnett and Brandon Bass are the only
Celtics to have played in every game this season. … Boston
snapped a five-game slide on Wednesday night. … It was the Suns'
first time winning consecutive road games all season. … Allen had
gone three straight games without scoring in double digits.

      
      (Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)