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

The Celtics face the Phoenix Suns for the first time this season with both teams looking for their 3rd straight win.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
at
Boston Celtics (40-22) at Phoenix Suns (20-42)
Sunday, March 5, 2017
5:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #63, Road Game #33
TV: CSNNE, FSAZ, NBA-LP 752(DTV)/752(Xfinity)
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, AZ Sports 98.7
Talking Stick Resort Arena
Referees: Sean Wright, Eric Lewis, Leon Wood


The Celtics continue their 5 game Western road trip with a stop in Phoenix to take on the Suns. The Suns are the only team that the Celtics have not yet faced this season. Both teams have won their last 2 games. The Celtics are 19-13 on the road while the Suns are 12-18 at home. The Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10 games while the Suns are 4-6 in their last 10.

The Celtics swept the series from the Suns last season and have won the last 3 games between these two teams. Phoenix has won 7 of their last 13 against Boston. The Celtics are playing in the first of back to back games with a game back at the Staples Center on Monday against the LA Clippers.

Tyler Zeller is doubtful for this game with gastroenteritis. He is expected to miss his second straight game on the road trip. Gerald Green was available to play against the Lakers after sitting out with a heel injury but he didn't play. Dragan Bender is out for Phoenix with an ankle injury.

Once again, the Celtics can't take the Suns for granted. Their record isn't great at just 20-42 but they have some nice players who play hard and can beat any team on any given night that doesn't match their effort. The Celtics have to play this team tough from start to finish.

Standings Reset

With a Cavs loss to the Heat on Saturday, the Celtics move to within 2.5 games of the Cavaliers. The Toronto Raptors lost to the Bucks to move 3.5 games behind the Celtics. The Wizards are 3 games behind the Celtics after losing the second half of their home and home series with the Raptors.

Orlando is playing at Washington on Sunday.



Probable Starters

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

C: Amir Johnson

SF: Jae Crowder...... PF: Al Horford

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

Injuries

Tyler Zeller (illness) doubtful

Head Coach

Brad Stevens


Probable Starters

PG: Eric Bledsoe.......... SG: Devin Booker

C: Alex Len

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

Suns Reserves

Leandro Barbosa
Tyson Chandler
Jared Dudley
Brandon Knight
Ronnie Price
Tyler Ulis
Alan Williams

Injuries
Dragan Bender (ankle) out

Head Coach
Earl Watson

Key Matchups
vs
Isaiah Thomas vs Eric Bledsoe
Bledsoe is averaging 21.1 points, 6.4 assists and 4.9 rebounds. Isaiah has been playing at an All Star level this season 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. Bledsoe is one of only 4 players averaging at least 20 points, 6.0 assist and 4.9 rebounds this season. The others are LeBron James, James Harden and Russell Westbrook.


vs
Avery Bradley vs Devon Booker
Booker is averaging 20.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Booker is shooting 42.1% from beyond the arc and makes an average of 2.2 per game. 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 13.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 0.9 blocks. However, since the All Star break, he has averaged 14.8 points and 1.1 steals.


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. Some games they have fallen behind and then mount a comeback in the second half only to fall short. This often happens against teams that they should easily beat. In the game against the Lakers, they allowed the Lakers to cut the lead from 31 down down to just 13. The Suns are 3rd in pace with 102.1 possessions per 48 minutes. The Celtics need to be ready to run and stay with them. In spite of their record, the Suns are a much better team and the Celtics have to play hard and stay focused from the opening tip to the final buzzer.

Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. The Celtics have been playing better defense lately and are now 15th in the league with a defensive rating of 105.8. Phoenix is 27th with a defensive rating of 109.0. They 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 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 14.1 2nd chance points per game.

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 20-42 to 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 not 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 their 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. Hopefully his teammates will pick up their effort to help Isaiah get the win.

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