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Celtics look for payback as they host the Phoenix Suns

The Celtics will look to avenge their earlier 109-106 loss to the Suns as they continue their 6 game home stand.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns (22-50) at Boston Celtics (46-26)
Friday, March 24, 2017
7:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #73, Home Game #35
TV: CSN-NE,FSAZ, NBA-LP 759(DTV); 755(Xfinity)
Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub, AZ Sports 98.7
TD Garden
Referees: Bill Kennedy, Matt Boland, Eric Dalen

The Celtics continue their 6 game home stand with a visit from the Phoenix Suns. The Celtics will be looking to avenge a 109-106 loss to the Suns in Phoenix. In that game, the Celtics collapsed down the stretch allowing the Suns to score 5 points in the final four seconds to win the game as Tyler Ulis hit a game winner as the clock expired.

The Suns are playing in the second of back to back games, having lost 126-98 to the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night. The Suns are 5-7 on the second night of back to back games. The Suns are 13-14 against Eastern Conference teams and have swept both the Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks this season.

The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 games while the Suns are 2-8 in their last 10. The Celtics are 25-9 at home and have won 12 of the last 13 games at the TD GArden. The Suns are just 9-27 on the road. The loss to the Nets was the Suns' 6th straight loss. The Celtics have won their last 2 games.

The six straight losses aren't much of a surprise since the Suns have shut down Eric Bledsoe, Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight for the season and appear to be going into tank mode. Dragan Bender is out with an ankle injury. Ronnie Price is day to day with a leg injury. The Celtics have no injuries listed.

Standings Reset
The Celtics have climbed to within 1 game of the first place Cavaliers. They are 2.5 games ahead of Washington with both teams winning on Wednesday. They are 3 games ahead of Toronto, who beat Miami on Thursday. They are 8.5 games ahead of Atlanta.
Games to Watch: 3/24 Nets at Wizards, Cavs at Hornets, Hawks at Bucks.

Probable Starters

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

C: Al Horford

SF: Jae Crowder...... PF: Amir Johnson

Celtics Reserves
Marcus Smart
Jaylen Brown
Terry Rozier
James Young
Jonas Jerebko
Gerald Green
Kelly Olynyk
Demetrius Jackson
Jordan Mickey
Tyler Zeller



Head Coach

Brad Stevens

Probable Starters

PG: Tyler Ulis.......... SG: Devin Booker

C: Alex Len

SF: TJ Warren ........... PF: Marquese Chriss

Suns Reserves

Leandro Barbosa
Jared Dudley
Alan Williams
Jarell Eddie

Dragan Bender (ankle) out
Eric Bledsoe (rest) out
Tyson Chandler (rest) out
Brandon Knight (rest) out
Ronnie Price (leg) day to day

Head Coach
Earl Watson

Key Matchups
Isaiah Thomas vs Tyler Ulis
With Bledsoe sitting out the rest of the season, Ulis has been tabbed as the starting point guard. The highlight of the first meeting between these two teams was a jump ball between these two 5'9" point guards (which Isaiah won). Ulis is averaging 5.2 points and 2.7 assists for the season but since the All Star break, he has been averaging 10.5 points and 6.5 assists. I'm sure Isaiah would love to have a big game to get back at Ulis for the career hight 20 points and game winner from their last meeting. For once, Isaiah won't have a height disadvantage.

Avery Bradley vs Devon Booker
Booker is averaging 20.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Booker is shooting 36.4% from beyond the arc this season and so Avery will need to be sure to stay with him on the perimeter. The Celtics need to play tough defense on him or he will make them pay. He can get to the hoop as well as score from beyond the arc.

Honorable Mention
Jae Crowder vs TJ Warren
Warren is averaging 13.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.1 steals. However, since the All Star break, he has averaged 14.8 points and 1.1 steals.

Keys to the Game

Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. The Celtics have been playing better defense lately and are now 12th in the league with a defensive rating of 105.3. Phoenix is 28th with a defensive rating of 108.8. The Celtics need to continue to make defense a priority if they want to continue to win. You can't win without defense.

- 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 as the Suns are 2nd in the league with 19.6 fast break points per game. 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 14.3 2nd chance points per game (6th in the league). The Celtics are 21-2 when they out-rebound their opponents.

Be Aggressive
- The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team in going after loose balls and rebounds, in defending, in going to the basket. They tend to back off and be less aggressive when they face teams that they expect to beat easily. They can't let the fact that Phoenix is 22-50 to keep them from playing all out, especially since one of those 22 wins was against the Celtics.

Focus - The Celtics need to stay focused especially on the offensive end. They must keep their focus on moving the ball, finding the open man, running on every possession and not let that focus waiver. The Suns are 10th in the league in steals and the Celtics have to focus on making good passes and not make careless turnovers as they did in the first half against the Pacers.

Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics have a habit of having a lapse at some point in the game and if they are way ahead, they let their opponet come back. Against the Suns the last time, they let up at the end and allowed the Suns to score 5 points in 4 seconds and hit a buzzer beating game winner. They have to play hard 48 minutes from the opening tip to the final buzzer with no let ups.

Celtic Pride - Although Isaiah said there were no bad feelings after the trade, every player wants to get a win over their former team. Also, the Suns embarrassed the Celtics the last time they met and so the Celtics should make a statement in this game to get revenge for that loss.

Health - The Celtics were without Al Horford and Avery Bradley when they faced the Suns the first time. The Celtics are now healthy and hopefully will stay that way going into the playoffs. The Celtics are 23-7 when their starting five are all playing. In the meantime, the Suns have shut down Bledsoe, Bender, Chandler and Knight for the season.

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 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 but the important thing for the Celtics is to adjust to whatever way they call it.

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