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Celtics and Suns Square Off in the Desert

Boston Celtics (23-7) at Phoenix Suns (20-12)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


TV: Comcast SportsNet; Radio: 850 AM WEEI

Venue: US Airways Center

The Boston Celtics look to snap their two-game losing streak against the Phoenix Suns tonight at 9:00pm.

Boston has suffered through two consecutive frustrating losses to the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors and things won't get any easier tonight against an explosive Phoenix Suns team that's leading the league in scoring with a 109.8 points per game average.

Things grew even worse for the Celtics earlier this afternoon when news broke that both Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo are listed as questionable for tonight's game. While Rondo is more likely to play than Garnett, not having KG in this one further cripples the Celtics' defense, which will have to be on point tonight against Phoenix's high-powered offense.

With Garnett and Rondo's statuses now up in the air, Doc Rivers will probably have to juggle his starting lineup again. If Garnett is out, look for Rasheed Wallace to get the start at power forward and if Rondo is forced to sit, we might see Eddie House get the start at the point. We also might see guys like Bill Walker, J.R. Giddens and possibly even Lester Hudson.

The Suns are coming off an impressive victory over the Los Angeles Lakers - the Western Conference's top team - so they'll be looking for a sweep of the top teams of each conference tonight. Phoenix received impressive performances from Amare Stoudemire (26 points, six rebounds), Steve Nash (16 points, 13 assists) and Jared Dudley (19 points, 6-10 shooting) in its win over LA on Monday. Phoenix both shared (25 assists) and took care of the ball (11 turnovers) against the Lakers and also hit 12 three-pointers during the victory.

The Suns are a downright lethal team on the offensive side of the ball. Besides scoring 109 points per game, they shoot 49.6 percent from the field, 42.2 percent from three-point nation and 74.6 percent from the free throw line. They're capable of racking up the fast break points, executing pick-and-roll offense in the halfcourt and pumping the ball down low to Amare Stoudemire. They can basically score any way possible and are more than willing to exploit weak defenses.

Projected Starters:

Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Tony Allen, Rasheed Wallace, Kendrick Perkins

Suns: Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Amare Stoudemire, Channing Frye

Health Check: For the Celtics, forward Paul Pierce (knee), guard/forward Marquis Daniels (thumb) and forward Glen Davis (ankle) are all out while guard Rajon Rondo (hamstring) and forward Kevin Garnett (right leg) are listed as questionable.

The Suns are healthy.

Keep It In Mind: The Celtics scored 60 points in the paint against the Suns back on November 6 in Boston.

Who's Hot: For the Celtics, Rajon Rondo scored a season-high 30 points to go along with 15 assists against the Warriors on Monday.

For the Suns, Jared Dudley dropped 19 points off the bench for Phoenix on 6-10 shooting in its win over the Lakers on Monday.

Who's Not: For the Celtics, Kendrick Perkins took just five shots against the Warriors on Monday.

For the Suns, Grant Hill scored just six points in less than 20 minutes against the Lakers on Monday.

Key Matchup: Rajon Rondo vs. Steve Nash

Honorable Mention: Tony Allen vs. Jason Richardson

Skinny: While things might be looking bleak for the Celtics in the wake of all the injuries, the NBA is still an any given night league and a win is still very much a possibility tonight. The Celtics have to make sure they limit their turnovers so they don't spoon feed Phoenix extra possessions. If the C's can execute their half-court offense, limit Phoenix's transition game and pick-and-roll offense and dominate the paint like they did in the first meeting of these two teams, they'll have a chance of escaping the desert with a win.

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