for this game

Rondo, Celtics hand Gentry first loss in win over Suns

Feb 22, 2009 - 11:38 PM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- Alvin Gentry's honeymoon is over.

Rajon Rondo scored a career-high 32 points and Ray Allen added 31 as the Boston Celtics handed Gentry and the Phoenix Suns a dose of reality and a 128-108 loss Sunday afternoon.

Paul Pierce scored 26 points and Brian Scalabrine added a season-high 14 for the Celtics, who exposed the Suns' lackadaisical defense by shooting a blistering 64 percent (46-of-72) from the field.

"Ray had it going, Rajon had it going and we were just trying to feed off of them," Pierce said. "I just tried to pick up some of the slack in the second half."

Boston, which will play without injured All-Star forward Kevin Garnett (right knee) for two to three weeks, sent a message to restructured Phoenix, which fired coach Terry Porter last Monday.

"This team is very confident without Kevin," Pierce said. "We played without Kevin last year and a few games this year with out him. We don't get discouraged when one guy goes down we just try to hold down the fort and win games.

Porter's replacement, Gentry, suffered his first loss as the Suns' head man Sunday in his first game against a formidable opponent. The coach began his stint with two games against the Los Angeles Clippers and one against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Those doormats had Phoenix feeling good about itself and Gentry's decision to return the Suns to their run-and-run style of the play.

Then, a real team came calling.

"It is one game," Gentry said. "We will continue to improve and we will still play with that pace. There is only a few teams that we will play that is going to be as good as that team right there."

"We just didn't have it today," Suns forward Matt Barnes said. "We beat the Clippers and the Thunder, the lower echelon of the NBA but we are trying to get to where the Celtics are. This is a good measuring stick. This new running system is new to us. It is our fourth game with it, so we still have some time to improve."

Rondo, who shot 13-of-18 from the field, ran by the 35-year-old Steve Nash with ease, making Phoenix's point guard look like he was standing in quicksand.

"I told him to be ultra-aggressive and attack, attack, attack," Boston coach Doc Rivers said.

"That didn't mean shoot, that means attack but he made shots, too, and that was fantastic. He is getting better and better. He is getting more confident, and what I love is the guys are getting more confident in him."

The Suns must have felt like they were running in the mud throughout the second half, when their comeback attempt fell short. A 3-pointer by Matt Barnes cut Phoenix's deficit to nine with 1:48 remaining, but that's as close as it got.

Playing without star forward Amare Stoudemire - who is out for the season with an eye injury - the Suns relied heavily on center Shaquille O'Neal, who performed admirably, collecting 17 points and six rebounds.

But it was hard for Phoenix to get its running game going when it was constantly taking the ball out of the net on the defensive end.

"Every time we tried to make a run and get it in a workable spread, nine a couple of times, they made some big baskets," Gentry said.

Jason Richardson scored 21 points and Nash added 19 and 11 assists for the Suns, who failed to win a fourth straight game for the first time this season. They have had five three-game winning strings halted.

Nash thinks the club may be able to put together a winning streak once they get some repetitions under their belt.

"I think we have a lot of work to do," the point guard said. "We came out of the All-Star break and had one practice and played our games in six days. We haven't had time to sharpen ourselves in what we want to accomplish."