Phoenix Suns (5-9) at Boston Celtics (5-8)
Time: 7:30 PM EST, Friday, January 20th, 2012
Venue: TD Garden, Boston MA
Officials: Greg Willard, Brent Barnaky, James Williams
Game #'s: Regular Season Game 14, Home Game 9
TV: CSN-NE,FSAZ, NBA-LP 755/756 Radio: WEEI, KTAR
The Line: Phoenix is 3-1 against Boston over the last 2
years, and both teams are coming off of a win, after a
prolonged string of losses.
You know that feeling in a close game you get when the team you're rooting for misses a bunny (that's an easy, high percentage shot, like an open layup)? You get that sinking feeling, like the very laws of physics and probability are against you, right when you need them most. 'Its not fair!' You say to yourself as you watch the ball clank off the rim and down to the parquet floor, the two points your boys desperately needing now a 'could've been' dream instead of a timely boon.
Well, if the season were a single close but critical game, two nights ago against Toronto, tonight against Phoenix, and Sunday night against Washington would all be bunnies we desperately need in order to keep it close through the first half. After Washington, the Celtics have five straight games against teams with a better record than theirs, and so far this season that's been a bit of a sticking point when it comes to getting things like 'wins'.
The Celtics are also, coincidentally, possibly without their best player and straw that stirs the camel's mojito (or whatever), due to the injury Rajon Rondo suffered during the Raptors game on Wednesday. Rondo, for the record, says he's playing tonight. We'll see.
I guess there is a story line here somewhere about Pietrus facing his old team in the Suns somewhere here as well, but frankly I imagine the only person who cares less than me about that manufactured conflicted is Mickael Pietrus.
Tonight's game is about getting a W when you absolutely need a W. Danny Ainge has allegedly given the himself and the team an arbitrary 10-game deadline for the 'do we or do we not blow it up' decision, and frankly, if the Celtics want to finish the season with a roster even remotely resembling the one that started the season, it would be wise to rack up another blowout win, no matter how much of a genius Steve Nash is in his mental mind.
Everything below this line provided by the Lord Of The Previews, FLCeltsFan!!
Probable Starting Lineup
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Ray Allen
C: Jermaine O'Neal
SF: Paul Pierce
PF: Kevin Garnett
Keyon Dooling (knee) day to day
Chris Wilcox (calf) day to day
Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) probable
Rajon Rondo (wrist) doubtful per Doc and probable per Rondo.
Probable Starting Lineup
PG: Steve Nash
SG: Jared Dudley
C: Marcin Gortat
SF: Grant Hill
PF: Channing Frye
Grant Hill played for Doc Rivers in Orlando from 2000-04
Mickael Pietrus played for the Suns during the 2010-11 season
Brandon Bass, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus were teammates in Orlando during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons
Keyon Dooling was coached by Alvin Gentry on the LA Clippers from 2000-03
Grant Hill and Keyon Dooling were teammates in Orlando from 2005-07
Gortat and Dooling were teammates in Orlando during the 2007-08 season
Markieff Morris and Paul Pierce both attended the University of Kansas
Sebastian Telfair played for the Celtics during the 2006-07 season
Michael Redd and Ray Allen were teammates in Milwaukee from 2000-02.
The Celtics home stand continues with a visit from the Suns. Like the Celtics the Suns are coming off a victory that ended a 5 game losing streak. Both teams have just 5 wins and both teams have key players who are on the down side of their careers. Much has been made of the age of the Celtics' big 3 but the Suns have a 37 year old point guard and a 39 year old small forward so they join the ranks of the elder statesmen as well.
Rondo injured his wrist in a fall in the Raptors' game. Doc has said it's doubtful that he will play. Rondo on the other hand has said that he will get treatment and will probably play. It will probably be a game time decision and we'll see who wins. If Rondo doesn't play, expect Bradley to get the start as Moore has been getting the nod with the second unit lately and Doc likes to keep the rotation intact when possible.
The win over the Raptors was good, but the Celtics have to start stringing wins together at some point to gain legitimacy as a possible contender.
Rajon Rondo vs Steve Nash
I expect that if there's any way possible, Rondo will be on the court for this one. Unless something is found in the MRI or he can't use the wrist, I think he will be up for the matchup with 2 time MVP, Steve Nash. He should have a speed advantage over Nash, but he will have to work on the defensive end as Nash can burn you from anywhere on the floor if you give him a step. Nash is leading the league in assists at 10.1 per game while Rondo is second with 9.4 assists per game.
Kevin Garnett vs Channing Frye
Last season in a meeting between these two teams, Frye did a great acting job when KG hit him below the belt, falling to the floor in agony before jumping up a second later and going at KG. For his efforts, KG was ejected from the game so this matchup could get personal for these two. I'm expecting KG to have an extra chip on his shoulder and that he will be aggressive and play well.
Paul Pierce vs Grant Hill
At last, Pierce is matched up with a player even older than him. Pierce has shown signs of snapping out of his slump and with the trade talks swirling, I expect the Captain to do whatever it takes to help his team win.
Keys to the Game
Defense - This is the key to every win this season and to a championship as well. If they try to play defense in spurts in this game they will probably lose because the Suns can put points up in a hurry if they let down their guard. The Celtics need to especially guard the perimeter as the Suns are a dangerous 3 point shooting team.
Ball Movement - The Celtics need to move the ball and find the open man in order to stretch the Suns weak defenses. They also need to try to get the ball into the paint and not just settle for jumpers. If they get the ball into the post they will be able to score, draw the foul or kick out for an open jumper.
Crash the Boards - The Celtics must make an effort to grab rebounds, especially on the offensive end, in this game. By grabbing offensive rebounds it will prevent the Suns from getting out on the break. Rebounding is mostly desire and effort and the team that wants it most will win the rebounding battle. The Celtics made a big improvement in their rebounding in the Raptors' game and they need to continue that effort on the boards in this one.
Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics must play hard for 48 minutes. They can't let up if they get a lead and they can't come out flat and play catch up the rest of the game. The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team and attack from start to finish. They did a good job of doing this in their last game and need to especially concentrate on a strong start again in this game.
Limit Turnovers - The Celtics must take better care of the ball. It seems that they go through spurts of being careless and making bad passes and losing focus and turning the ball over. They have to keep their focus and not give the other team easy points off of turnovers.
Focus and Rondo
The Celtics must keep their focus and try to put it all together in order to get their second straight win. Obviously this will be a lot easier if Rondo plays. But even if he doesn't, this team should have enough talent to win this game.