BOSTON (AP) — Jeff Green scored 14 points, rookie Jared Sullinger added 12 points and a career-best 16 rebounds, and the Boston Celtics recovered from a dreadful third quarter with a big rally to start the fourth and held off the slumping Phoenix Suns 87-79 on Wednesday night.
The Celtics survived a scoring drought that spanned almost half of the third quarter, scoring just 14 in the period before regaining the lead and taking command against the road-weary Suns, who lost their 11th straight away from home.
Jason Terry added 13 points as Boston’s reserves outscored Phoenix’s 47-16. Kevin Garnett was the only Boston starter to score in double figures, finishing with 10 points and five rebounds.
The Celtics (18-17) have won four straight and are back above .500 for the first time in two weeks.
Marcin Gortat had 12 points and 14 rebounds, and Jared Dudley scored 14 while pulling down 10 boards for the Suns, who lost their fourth straight and fell to 2-16 on the road. Luis Scola scored 16 and Goran Dragic finished with 10 points for Phoenix, which gave the Celtics a scare in the third quarter.
The Suns were coming off a 108-99 loss at Milwaukee on Tuesday, when they were outscored 58-43 in the second half and lost their 10th straight on the road.
The outlook wasn’t good after the first half Wednesday with Boston leading 53-41, but the Suns responded with a torrid run early in the third quarter, shutting out Boston for 5:59 while scoring 17 straight.
Dudley hit a 3-pointer and Gortat scored six during the spurt, putting back an offensive rebound that gave Phoenix a 56-55 lead with 6:59 left in the period.
Boston fans went silent at first as the big lead dwindled, then started booing as the Celtics continued to struggle. Rajon Rondo finally snapped the scoreless skid on a jumper with 5:42 left in the period, cutting Phoenix’s lead to 58-57. The Celtics hadn’t scored since Garnett’s jumper 19 seconds into the third.
Boston regained enough composure to lead 67-64 after three, then quickly took command by opening the final quarter with an 11-2 run. Terry started it with a 3-pointer and Garnett added four points before setting up Green for an alley-oop dunk to put Boston up 78-66 with 7:45 remaining.
Notes: Rondo returned from a one-game suspension for making contact with a referee and failure to cooperate with a league investigation. He finished with eight points and eight assists. … Boston coach Doc Rivers was called for a technical late in the third period, then Rondo and Phoenix’s P.J. Tucker drew dual technicals early in the fourth. … The Celtics opened the game 4 for 11 from the floor and trailed 24-23 at the end of the first quarter, then shot 57 percent in the second quarter while outscoring Phoenix 30-17 in the period. … The Suns committed seven turnovers in the second quarter … Sullinger’s previous high for rebounds was 11 against Toronto on Nov 17.