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Celtics Hoping for 5th Straight Win as Suns Visit Garden

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Phoenix Suns (23-15) at Boston Celtics (33-9)
Monday, January 19
8:00 PM ET
Game #43, Home Game #23
TV: TNT
TD BankNorth Garden

Game Thread l Chat

Suns Blog Bright Side of the Sun

The Suns make their only visit of the regular season on the second of back to back games after beating the Raptors in a close game in Toronto on Sunday afternoon. The Suns have won 5 of the last 6 and 10 of the last 13 meetings between these two teams and before the Celtics beat them in their last meeting, the Suns had won 5 in a row over the Celtics. They split the season series last year with each team winning on their home court.

The Suns have won 4 of their last 5 road games and are 4-1 on the road against Eastern Conference teams this season. These two teams will forever be linked by Game 5 of the 1976 Finals when Boston won a hard fought 128-126 overtime game after Garfield Heard hit the "Shot heard around the world" to send the game into the 3rd OT.

The biggest question (no pun intended) going into this game is at the center position for both teams. Perk has been out with the shoulder injury and has said that he would like to return against the Suns but Doc has held firm that Perk won't return until later in the week. Shaq has typically played in only of of back to back games for the Suns, but played almost 25 minutes against the Raptors but so far it appears that he will play against the Celtics.

This game will be a much better indication of where the Celtics are than their last 4 wins. The Celtics need to win this one to prove that they are back on track and can win against one of the top teams and not just the bottom feeders.

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard
vs
Rajon Rondo vs Steve Nash

Shooting Guard
vs
Ray Allen vs Jason Richardson

Small Forward
vs
Paul Pierce vs Grant Hill

Power Forward
vs
Kevin Garnett vs Amare Stoudamire

Center
vs
Brian Scalabrine vs Shaquille O'Neal

Injuries

Boston CelticsKendrick Perkins (shoulder) day to day
Tony Allen (ankle) day to day
Glen Davis (elbow) questionable

Phoenix Suns None

Game Notes: Perk has targeted this game to return to play, but every report from Doc has been that he will not play in this game. The Globe is reporting that Perk will be evaluated in the morning, but is not expected to play. On the other side of it, Shaq has only been playing in one or the other of back to back games and he played almost 25 minutes against the Raptors on Sunday, so it isn't certain that he will play in this one. I don't see him wanting to miss a game against the champs though. Either way, if he plays he will be playing in the second of back to back games and fatigue could be a factor. It's possible they played him against Toronto thinking that the Celtics would be without Perk.

Key Matchups
vs
Rajon Rondo vs Steve Nash
Rondo gets a chance to show what he can do against one of the premier PG's in the league and a 2 time MVP.

vs
Kevin Garnett vs Amare Stoudamire
This is a battle of two of the league's best power forwards. KG has had a rest and Amare will be playing in the second of back to back games and on the road.

Honorable Mention
Ray Allen vs Jason Richardson
This will be a battle of the shooters. Both players are capable of putting up points in a hurry. Richardson may give Ray problems on defense with his quickness and Ray can give Richardson problems if he is hitting his shots the way he has been recently.

Keys to the Game
Defense - the Celtics have to play defense first and play the swarming team defense that has become their calling card. They can't out shoot this Phoenix team and will need to win the game with defense. The Suns this season have been working on their own defense and have held 15 of their last 17 opponents under 50% shooting. If the Celtics are to win this game, they will need to do it with defense.

Rebound - Any team with Shaq and Amare Stoudamire is going to get it's share of rebounds. Much of rebounding is effort and desire. The team that wants it most will be more aggressive in grabbing rebounds. The Celtics need to crash the boards and be the team that wants it more.

Play 48 minutes The Celtics need to come out strong and play hard for 48 minutes, whether it is the starters or the reserves. They can't afford to come out sluggish or to let up at the end of the game. They have to play hard for 48 minutes and for all 4 quarters. A team like the Suns will take advanatage of any let up.

X Factor
The Center Matchup
A lot will depend whether Perk and Shaq play in this one. The Celtics need Perk if Shaq is in the lineup. Since Shaq is playing against the Raptors, he may or may not play against the Celtics.