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Booker shines but Celtics roll on

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By Agence France-Presse

Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker scored 38 points but it was not enough to prevent the Boston Celtics rolling on to their 20th victory of the season on Saturday.

Booker produced a scoring masterclass and contributed four rebounds and five assists only to see his efforts end in a 116-111 defeat at the TD Garden.

Booker’s scoring display came after he scored 70 points at the same venue during a defeat last season.

Afterwards the 21-year-old said he had been inspired by the venue.

“Every time you step in a building of this (history), you get that feeling,” he said. “It kind of reminds you of that Madison Square Garden, Staples Center feel where it’s just, you can feel the rich history coming through here.

“Me growing up a big fan of the game just watching all the battles that have been in Boston my whole life and before my life. You know there’s some rich tradition here.”

Boston, who improved to 20-4 to consolidate their position at the top of the Eastern Conference standings, outlasted the Suns thanks to an all-round offensive effort.

Kyrie Irving once again led the way for Boston, scoring 19 points on a day when six Celtics players made double figures.

Irving, who scored five of his points in the last two minutes, said Boston had adopted a simple gameplan: “Stop Devin Booker, honestly.”

Jaylen Brown added 17 points while Jayson Tatum had 15 points and Al Horford 14 points. Horford also snared five rebounds and had 11 assists.

Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart both made valuable contributions from the bench, with 17 and 13 points respectively.

Brown was similarly awed by Booker’s scoring display.

“(Booker) doesn’t have a conscious — he can shoot with no remorse,” Brown said. “He can let it fly whenever he wants and he’s really good. He has the green light and that’s what makes it tough.”

Boston were set on the way to victory after making a fast start, opening up a 31-22 lead in the first quarter which ultimately allowed the Celtics to keep the Suns at arm’s length throughout.

Phoenix reduced the deficit to six points at half-time after outscoring Boston in the second quarter, but the Celtics rallied in the third to open up a 89-79 lead heading into the final period.

Phoenix closed to within two points after Tyson Chandler’s alley-oop dunk made it 105-103.

But a three-pointer from Irving on the next attack put Boston 108-103 ahead with just under two minutes left.

Irving also produced another moment of magic with a driving layup to give Boston a 112-106 lead before the Celtics closed out the win.

AFP