The Celtics continue their West Coast road trip with a stop in Phoenix to take on the Suns. If there is one thing the Celtics have learned so far on this trip, it is that every team, even the teams at the bottom of the standings are going to play their very best to try to knock off the team at the top. The Celtics will need to play their best to get a win and they certainly didn’t play their best against the Warriors and the Kings so far.
The Celtics are 3-1 vs Western Conference teams and 1-1 on this trip so far. The Suns are 3-1 vs Eastern Conference teams. The Celtics are 5-2 on the road while the Suns are 5-3 at home. The Suns are looking for their second straight win while the Celtics will try to get back on track after the loss in Sacramento.
The Suns are playing in the final game of a 6 game home stand while the Celtics are playing in the 3rd game of a 5 game road trip. The Celtics and Suns tied the series last season 1-1 with each team winning on their home court. The Suns are not a door mat like they once were. The Celtics will need to play their best to get a win against them.
The Celtics are tired and banged up but only Gordon Hayward is listed on the injured list and will miss this game with the hand injury. Romeo Langford is with the Red Claws but is out with a sprained ankle. Marcus Smart mentioned that he is dealing with a bone bruise on his hip and that he has a couple of sprained fingers and was walking gingerly after last night’s game. Kemba banged knees in the game and likely will have a sore knee but isn’t on the injured list. Robert Williams is still dealing with a sore ankle and also is not on the list.
For the Kings, Ty Jerome is out with a sprained ankle. DeAndre Ayton is serving a 25 game suspension for testing positive for a banned diuretic. He has served 10 games of the suspension so far and will miss this game as well. Jalen Lecque is on assignment with the G-League and will miss this game.
Probable Celtics Starters
Gordon Hayward (hand) out
Romeo Langford (G-League/ankle) out
Two Way Players
Probable Suns Starters
Frank Kaminsky III
Ty Jerome (ankle) out
Jalen Lecque (G-League)
DeAndre Ayton (suspended) out
Two Way Player
Marcus Smart vs Devin Booker
Booker can put up points in bunches as evidenced by the 70 point game he had against the Celtics in 2017. He is averaging 25.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 5.9 assists. He is shooting 53.7% from the field and 50% from three. If the Celtics don’t guard him better than they did Buddy Hield, this could get ugly. Marcus is dealing with a bone bruise on his hip and sprained fingers but that didn’t stop him from diving for balls and flying in to grab the rebound at the end of the Kings game. He hit just 2 of 16 shots in that game though and allowed Buddy Hield to go for 35 points. The Celtics need better play from Marcus on both ends of the court.
Daniel Theis vs Aron Baynes
The Celtics will face “All of Australia” for the first time since he was traded in the off season. Daniel Theis has been playing very well and should once again be the starter. These two have gone up against each other in practice before and that should make for a good matchup in this game. Baynes is one of the reasons that the Suns are doing so well. He is averaging 15 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.9 assists. He is shooting 57.1% from the field and 46.8% from beyond the arc. As with every former Celtic, Baynes will be out to prove they should have kept him so expect a big game from him.
Kemba Walker vs Ricky Rubio
Rubio has had some big games against the Celtics in the past. He is averaging 13.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 8.7 assists. He is shooting 37.5% from beyond the arc. Kemba bumped his knee in the game against Sacramento and hopefully will be ok to play in this one.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. The Celtics are 10th with a defensive rating of 103.9 but the Suns aren’t far behind with a defensive rating of 105.0 (13th). The Celtics need to continue to make defense a priority if they want to win this game. You won’t win many games without defense. The Celtics need to guard the perimeter as the Suns are shooting 39% beyond the arc as a team. They also have to guard the paint as the Suns are 10th in the league with 49.6 points in the paint.
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 as the Suns are 5th in the league with 16.3 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. The Celtics are going to have to put out extra effort to win the battle of the boards in this one.
Play Hard 48 Minutes - The past two games, the Celtics have gotten off to a slow start and fallen behind by double digits before making a run to catch up by half time. They must come out ready to play and play hard from the opening tip to the final buzzer. The Celtics can’t afford to start slow or let up when they are playing good teams on the road.
Move the Ball Carefully - The Celtics need to move the ball and find the open man. Hero ball rarely ends well. Several times against the Kings, they lapsed into hero ball with players trying to do too much instead of sharing the ball. The Celtics need to move the ball but also, take care of the ball. They turned the ball over 14 times against the Kings and the Kings turned them into 19 points. The Celtics can’t do that against the Suns, who are first in the league with 22.2 points off of turnovers 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 have to be the team that plays harder and that wants to win more. They have faced two teams on this trip so far that have played harder than them and they barely beat the first one and were burned by the second one. The Celtics have to work harder than their opponents.
Road Fatigue - The Celtics may be getting a bit road weary after 2 games on the the road out West and with three more to go, especially since they are also playing in back to back games. They are nursing some bumps and bruises and may be very tired by the end of this one. Hopefully they can dig down deep and find the energy and focus to get a win.
Officiating - I know that I say this every game, but the officiating is always an x-factor in every game. Every crew calls the game differently whether they call every little ticky tack foul or they let a lot of contact go and let the teams play. Some refs favor the home team and some not so much. The Celtics have got to adjust to the way the game is being called.