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Here Comes The Suns, And I Say, Its Alright.

The Suns show the Boston Celtics how they play defense in Arizona.
The Suns show the Boston Celtics how they play defense in Arizona.

Phoenix Suns (31-27, 14-14 away) @ Boston Celtics (43-15, 25-5 home)
Game #: 59/82, Home #: 31/41

Time: 7:30 PM EST, March 2nd 2011
Venue: TD Garden
Officials: Tom Washington, Brian Forte, Eric Lewis
TV: CSN-NE, TheScore, KUTP Radio: WEEI
The Line: Phoenix is on a 4 game win streak, and is also on a 3 game
win streak against Boston; 1 game this season, and both games from
last season.

The 'new look' Celtics are officially 2-1 against the rest of the 'new look' league, and tonight they're facing another 'new look' team in the Phoenix Suns, who lost Goran Dragic and a protected 1st to add scoring dynamo and Murkle (you know, that thing you get when you cross a little person and an Urkle? Oh yeah, that thing.) Aaron Brooks.

The Celtics have not beaten the Phoenix Suns in over two calender years, dropping both games to them last season, and the only game to them so far this season. The loss this season, specifically, was one of the ugliest losses of the season. It was during a controversial piece of the schedule where Boston flew out to Portland one night, then turned around and played the Suns in Phoenix the following evening, resulting in one of the most lackluster and sluggish performances from the C's I had or hope to see all season.

Tonight though ought to be a bit different. Nobody knows if Troy Murphy (or 'Murph' as he will be now known, according to Boston city regs # 32B.1) will be playing tonight (He's driving up from New Jersey today, and who knows if he'll even make it through New York City without ending up in Burlington or something), but new additions Nenad 'I can has vowel?' Krstic and Jeff Green are coming along, and the Celtics look like they've taken a solid step in moving past the Kendrick Perkins 'Betradyal'.

Look for the C's to come out tonight well rested and with a certain undeniable swagger. Beyond the betraydal, the Celtics also had to contend with a 4 game (5 if you count the All-Star) road trip which had every contest West of the Rockies, and this will be their first home stand in two weeks. Expect the Celtics to have that extra bit of excitment tonight, and considering the way the last game went, also expect the Suns to match them in terms of chippiness, if not execution.

Probable Starting Lineup

PG: Rajon Rondo 10.7 PPG 12.1 APG 2.3 SPG
SG: Ray Allen 17.3 PPG 2.8 APG .452 3P%

C: Nenad Krstic 7.6 PPG 4.4 RPG 0.4 BPG

SF: Paul Pierce 18.9 PPG 5.0 RPG 3.2 APG
PF: Kevin Garnett 15.1 PPG 9.2 RPG 0.8 BPG

Boston Bench Mob
Glen Davis
Von Wafer
Avery Bradley
Jeff Green
Chris Johnson

Jermaine O'Neal (knee) out
Delonte West (ankle) day to day
Shaquille O'Neal (hip) day to day

Troy Murphy

Probable Starting Lineup

PG: Steve Nash 16.4 PPG 11.4 APG 0.7 SPG
SG: Vince Carter 14.2 PPG 2.2 APG .360 3P%

C: Robin Lopez 7.9 PPG 3.6 RPG 0.7 BPG

SF: Grant Hill 13.8 PPG 4.6 RPG 2.5 APG
PF: Channing Frye 12.3 PPG 6.5 RPG 1.0 BPG

Suns Reserves
Jared Dudley
Marcin Gortat
Zabian Dowdell
Hakim Warrick
Josh Childress
Mickael Pietrus
Aaron Brooks

Ganai Lawal (knee) out

Match-Up Of The Night: Nenad Krstic V Marcin Gortat

You would think that any Match-Up Of The Night with the Suns would have to involve Steve Nash, but the thing about Steve Nash is that while he's going to murder you offensively, if the rest of his team is not hitting shots, he's a managable issue.

So that's why I focused on a guy who has only started 1 game since the beginning of 2011. Gortat was always a second thought in Orlando, but in Phoenix he's really starting to come along. Over the past 14 games, Gortat is averaging 30 mins, 15 points, 10 boards, and 60% shooting a night. He's become a very real threat on both ends of the floor, and if Nenad Krstic is not up for the task, the Celtics don't really have anyone else. Glen Davis got killed in Denver down low, especially on the boards, and if Davis has to guard Gortat for prolonged important stretches tonight, I worry about how Steve Nash will be able to utilize the size discrepancy.

Keys To The Game For The Good Guys:

1) Time For A Fresh Start- Even though the Celtics have won the past two games, I never got the feeling like they felt they were really 'in control'. The C's do have a penchant for blowing leads and letting inferior teams back into ball games that should have ended at the half, but these last few games the marked difference to me is that I haven't seen clear 48 minute wire to wire intensity, and I think tonight is going to be when that returns. The Celtics are the more talented team, they're at home for the first time since the All-Star break, and they're facing a team that embarrassed them earlier in the season.

2) Slow It Down- The Celtics need to slow down the pace here and not allow the team to get into a dueling match with the Suns focusing on who can hit the most transition 3pt shots. The Suns are a team that relies on energy, mediocre athleticism, and playing a pace that most teams are not accustomed to. They're going to push defensive rebounds when they get them, they're going to look to rebound their own missed shots rather than get back, and they're going to want to sucker the C's into playing fast and loose. If the Celtics want to take this down early, they need to force the Suns into taking contested shots from a halfcourt offense, and rebound the misses. They also need to make sure they pace their own complicated offense, and take smart shots. If they get all ancy in their pantsy and start putting up shots early in the clock, the C's will play right into the Suns' hands.

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