PHOENIX — Jeff Green gave Boston a sensational performance in his first start in nearly two years.
Green scored a season-high 31 points on 11-of-14 shooting and the short-handed Celtics routed the Phoenix Suns 113-88 on Friday night.
“I didn’t have a different mindset,” said Green, who missed last season following heart surgery to correct an aortic aneurysm. “It was the same as me coming off the bench. I just tried to make a statement early and that’s what I did by attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line.”
Green started in place of 36-year-old Kevin Garnett, given a rest with Boston playing its third game in four nights.
“Jeff was phenomenal,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “We started the game running a set we had never run in our lives. We literally drew it up right before the game. They just had the basketball IQ to keep working and they actually showed us options we didn’t know we had.”
Chris Wilcox had 13 points off the bench, and Avery Bradley and Jason Terry scored 13 each for the Celtics, who moved two games ahead of Milwaukee for seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s just a feel-good win,” Rivers said.
Paul Pierce scored only eight on 3-of-5 shooting for his fourth single-digit game of the season. But that mattered little to the Celtics, who were dominant from the opening tip in snapping a two-game skid.
Jordan Crawford, acquired from Washington on Thursday, made his Celtics debut and scored 10 points off the bench as Boston improved to 9-3 without injured guard Rajon Rondo.
“I didn’t get to sleep until around 4 and had to get up at 6:30, but it’s all good,” Crawford said. “They did a good job of welcoming me. They made it normal for me, just telling me to come out and play my game.”
Goran Dragic had 18 points and 10 assists, Markieff Morris scored 11 and Marcin Gortat added 10 points and six rebounds for the Suns, who have lost two straight and six of seven.
“We’re just playing bad, bad basketball,” Gortat said. “We need training camp for a week at least. There was no defense, no rotations. They’re just walking by us and taking the ball out of our hands.”
Boston wasted no time grabbing control, taking advantage of Phoenix’s 0-for-5 start from the floor and a pair of Suns turnovers to open a 13-0 lead less than 4 minutes into the game.
Suns coach Lindsey Hunter waited only 60 seconds before calling his first timeout. In the fourth quarter he had three point guards on the floor.
“Two dead layups? Yeah, I saw (the problems) real early,” Hunter said. “A situation like tonight burns at my very being. That is totally unacceptable, coaching-wise and player-wise. That way we performed tonight? That cannot happen. People say you can’t coach effort. I disagree because I am responsible and I feel like if I’ve got to coach effort then that’s what I have to do.
“I guarantee you we’re going to change or we’re going to practice until they kick us out of the gym, because that puts a bad taste in my mouth. … One of their Hall of Fame players didn’t play and they still come in here and smack you around like a punching bag. You’re at home and there is no resistance. That is just not who I am and that is not who this team will be. Whatever we have to do, whatever method, it will be done.”
Phoenix slowly cut into the lead, but every time the Suns came close the Celtics ran their lead back to double digits.
The Suns’ last run came in the first 2 minutes of the second half, a 7-0 streak capped by a 3-pointer from Dragic that cut Boston’s 12-point halftime lead to 53-48. But the Celtics pulled away for good, opening a 74-59 lead on Terrence Williams’ layup with 3:03 left in the third quarter.
Boston, which swept the season series against Phoenix for the first time since 2008-09, led by as many as 30 in the fourth quarter.
“This is one you just want to put behind you as fast as possible,” Suns forward P.J. Tucker said.