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Celtics begin road trip with a stop in Phoenix to take on the Suns

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The Celtics begin their five-game Western road trip with a stop in Phoenix for the second and final meeting between these two teams.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
at
Boston Celtics (42-30) at Phoenix Suns (20-52)
Saturday, March 26, 2016
10:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #73, Road Game #36
TV: CSNNE, FSAZ, NBA-LP 763(DTV)/752(Xfinity)
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, AZ Sports 98.7,Sirius 217
US Airways Center

Referees: Bill Spooner, Tony Brown, Ben Taylor

The Celtics begin their five-game West coast road trip with a stop in Phoenix for the second and final meeting between these two teams. The Celtics won the first meeting in January 117-103. Phoenix has won 7 of their last 12 games against the Celtics. Game 5 of the 1976 Finals will forever link these two teams as the Celtics won a classic game 128-126 in triple overtime.

The Celtics begin their road trip with three straight wins behind them after losing the previous four games. Both teams are 5-5 in their last ten games. The Suns are playing in the second of back-to-back games and are 4-9 this season when playing the back end of back-to-back games. The Suns are 13-23 at home while the Celtics are 17-18 on the road.

For the Celtics, Avery Bradley was too ill to travel with the Celtics when they flew to Phoenix, although the team recently announced that he will play tonight. Marcus Smart will likely see an increased role if Coach Stevens wants to restrict Bradley's minutes. Terry Rozier left Wednesday's game vs the Raptors and part of Friday's practice with an illness and is day to day. Jae Crowder traveled with the team and is expected to play at some time on the road trip but is out for this game. For the Suns, Tyson Chandler is questionable with back spasms. Eric Bledsoe (knee) and TJ Warren (foot) are out. Brandon Knight is a game time decision with a stomach bug.

The Celtics are in 4th place half a game behind Atlanta (3rd) and tied with Miami (5th), but they own the tiebreaker with the Heat. They are one game ahead of Charlotte (6th). After last night's loss, Phoenix has the third-worst record, and the Nets have the fourth-worst record. The Celtics need a win for their own seeding, but a loss would improve their draft chances. Other games to watch: ATL @ DET and CHA @ MIL.


Probable Starters

PG Isaiah Thomas....... SG: Avery Bradley

C: Jared Sullinger

SF: Evan Turner....... PF: Amir Johnson

Celtics Reserves
RJ Hunter
Jonas Jerebko
David Lee
Jordan Mickey
Terry Rozier
James Young
Tyler Zeller
Kelly Olynyk
Marcus Smart

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Injuries
Jae Crowder (ankle) out
Terry Rozier (illness) day to day
Avery Bradley (illness) active


Probable Starters

PG: Brandon Knight .......... SG: Devin Booker

C: Alex Len

SF: PJ Tucker ........... PF: John Leuer

Suns Reserves

Mirza Teletovic
TJ Warren
Ronnie Price
Chase Budinger
John Jenkins
Alan Williams
Archie Goodwin

Injuries
Tyson Chandler (back) questionable
TJ Warren (foot) out
Eric Bledsoe (knee) out
Brandon Knight (illness) questionable

Head Coach
Earl Watson



Key Matchups
vs
Isaiah Thomas vs Brandon Knight
Knight is averaging 19.4 points, 5.2 assists and 1.2 steals. Isaiah has been playing at an All-Star level throughout March and should be motivated to play well against the team that gave up on him and then traded him for next to nothing to the Celtics. Knight missed last night's game with a stomach bug and is a game time decision for this contest. If Knight can't play John Jenkins will probably get the start in his place again.

vs
Avery Bradley vs Devon Booker
As stated above, Avery was ill and didn't travel with the team. While he will play, his role may be reduced, so the matchup with the most minutes at the position may be Rozier or Smart vs. Booker, who is playing well for the Suns. Booker is averaging 12.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. In March, Booker is second among all rookies with 21.9 points per game. He has had 4 30+ point games.

Honorable Mention
Jared Sullinger vs. Alex Len
Len is averaging 8.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 0.9 blocks. However, since the All-Star break, he has averaged 14.8 points and 11.2 rebounds.


Keys to the Game

Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics need to keep their focus and intensity for 48 minutes. Against some teams they have gotten off to a fast start only to collapse at the end. In some games they have fallen behind before mounting a comeback in the second half only to fall short. This often happens against teams that they should easily beat. They have to play hard and stay focused from the opening tip to the final buzzer regardless of the Suns' record.

Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. The Celtics amped up their defense against the Raptors, and it led to a win. They need to continue to make defense a priority if they want to continue to win. You can't win without defense. The Celtics let their defense slip from a top-five defense to the league's 13th best, allowing 102 points per game. The Suns allow 107.6 points per game (29th). The Celtics need to play the kind of defense they are capable of playing to get a win.

Rebound
- The Celtics need to rebound on the offensive end to give themselves extra possessions and to prevent the Suns from racking up fast break points. They also have to crash the boards on the defensive end to prevent the Suns from getting tip-ins and second-chance points as they average 13.2 second-chance points per game.

Be Aggressive
- The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team in going after loose balls and rebounds, in defending, and in going to the basket. They tend to back off and be less aggressive when they face teams that are missing players or teams they expect to beat easily and they end up losing. They can't let the fact that Phoenix is in the lottery keep them from playing all-out.

Focus - The Celtics need to stay focused, especially on the offensive end. They can't let all the distractions of the hostile crowd, the jet lag, the strange arena, etc. shake their focus. They must keep their focus on moving the ball, finding the open man, running on every possession, and they cannot let being on the road shake what they are capable of.

X-Factors
Isaiah Factor - Although Isaiah said there were no bad feelings after the trade, every player wants to get a win over his or her former team. Hopefully he won't try too hard and lapse into hero ball. He needs to play within the team concept and not worry about showing the Suns what they are missing.

Depleted Team Factor - Too often when the Celtics face a weaker team or a team that is missing key players they come out flat and fail to play with energy. We have seen this against the Lakers, and the Nets and other teams that were less than full strength. They have to play just as hard against the Suns as they would the Warriors. Also, with Jae already out and Avery Bradley ill, the Celtics will be depleted and will need others to step up big time.

Officiating Factor - As I have said every game, officiating is always an X-factor. Will the refs let them play or call every little ticky-tack foul? Will they call it even or favor one of the teams? Will they even be competent in making the calls? Will they continue to dog Marcus Smart? Will the home team get the advantage? The officiating is always like Forrest Gump's box of candy. You never know what you are going to get.

Official Report
Bill Spooner

Over the past 26 seasons, Bill Spooner has worked 1,425 regular season games and 102 playoff games. In addition to his NBA experience, Spooner has seven years of collegiate officiating experience in the Pac-10, Big West and West Coast Conferences. He also has eight years of high school officiating experience in his home state of California. Spooner was the ref who was caught on tape by a reporter telling Kurt Rambis that he would make up for a bad call he made on his team at the other end. There was some controversy over it and David Stern vowed to investigate it but nothing ever came of it.

In a game last season against the Cavs, the refs called the game fairly even for 3 quarters and then very one sided for the Cavs in the 4th quarter with the final free throw disparity 37-23 in favor of the Cavs. There were several obvious bad calls against the Celtics that even Cavs fans questioned. Against Memphis last season, there were quite a few terrible calls, the worst of which when the ball very obviously hit the rim on a shot to beat the shot clock. The Celtics got the rebound and put the ball back in and at that point, they called a 24 second violation on the last shot. He called a preseason game against the Knicks that was well officiated and the win over the Cavs that also was called fairly even. The Celtics are 2-0 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 games with Spooner while the Suns are 1-1 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 with Spooner. His home team W/L record this season is 19-22 so he's not easily influenced by the home crowd.

Tony Brown

Tony Brown has officiated 777 regular season games and eight- Playoff games in his first 13 seasons as an NBA official. Prior to joining the NBA, he officiated for four seasons in the NBA D-League and CBA and three seasons in the WNBA. During that time he worked the 2002 Finals, the 2002 WNBA All-Star Game and the 2001 CBA Finals. As with most refs, Brown has been good and bad in past games with the Celtics. In some the officiating is one sided and in others very good. Brown called Game 1 of the Rockets/Mavs playoff series and it was very one sided against the Mavs. The Rockets shot 45 free throws to 17 for the Mavs. Of course, he called the game with Joey Crawford and that could account for a lot of the controversial calls.

This season, in the loss in Dallas, the officiating was terrible. After they called 2 clean blocks by the Celtics fouls, Tommy yelled, "That's 2 strikes against them." Then after failing to call a Parsons elbow to Smart's head right in front of the ref, Tommy yelled "This is getting obnoxious." They were so bad they even got an "Oh, come on!" from Mike who rarely complains. Here are just a couple comments from among many from Mavs fans:

"Curious sequence there. Phantom foul on Bradley, Lee gets mugged - no call, and ticky tack foul on Lee"

"I'd be pissed if I was a Celtics fan at this officiating."

"I'll take the win but without the refs help, we lose this one."

Dallas shot 35 free throws to 24 for Boston. He also called a game vs Chicago that was evenly called and the officials let both teams play. The Celtics are 2-2 this season and 4-6 over their last 10 games with Brown. The Wuns are 3-1 this season and 6-4 over their last 10 games with Brown. His home W/L record this season is 30-21.

Ben Taylor
Ben Taylor enters his third NBA season having officiated 109 regular season games. Taylor joins the full-time staff after six seasons as a referee in the NBA D-League, already having officiated 17 regular season NBA games as a non-staff official. He also serves as an FIBA International Basketball Referee.

While at Middle Tennessee State University, where he received a BA in Public Relations, Taylor was a member of the Theta Iota Chapter of Sigma Nu Fraternity, where he coordinated many events, headlined by the Multiple Sclerosis Society’s "Bike to Jack and Back" as the Philanthropic chair.

In a game last season against the Magic the officiating was terrible. The Celtics were mugged all night with no calls while they were called for ticky tack contact with the Magic. Orlando shot 28 free throws to 20 for the Celtics, but 6 of the Celtics' free throws were intentional fouls at the end of the game. Otherwise he wasn't bad last season.

In his first game with the Celtics this season, the loss to Dallas, the officiating was terrible. After they called 2 clean blocks by the Celtics fouls, Tommy yelled, "That's 2 strikes against them." Then after failing to call a Parsons elbow to Smart's head right in front of Taylor, Tommy yelled "This is getting obnoxious." They were so bad they even got an "Oh, come on!" from Mike who rarely complains. Dallas shot 35 free throws to 24 for Boston. Here are just a couple comments from many from Mavs fans:

"Curious sequence there. Phantom foul on Bradley, Lee gets mugged - no call, and ticky tack foul on Lee"

"I'd be pissed if I was a Celtics fan at this officiating."

"I'll take the win but without the refs help, we lose this one."

In the game against Brooklyn this season, there were lots of bad calls going both ways. The refs called a lot of ticky tack fouls on both teams that disrupted the flow of the game. The Celtics are 2-3 this season and 4-6 in their last 10 games with Taylor. The Suns are 1-2 this season and 4-6 in their last 10 games with Taylor. Unlike many young refs, he is not influenced by the home crowd with a home W/L record this season of 24-25.