The Celtics and Phoenix Suns take on each other in the second scrimmage for both teams. The Celtics lost to the Thunder 98-84 on Friday while the Suns beat the Utah Jazz 101-88 on Thursday. The Celtics and Suns played twice before the hiatus with the Celtics winning 99-88 in Phoenix and the Suns winning 123-119 in Boston with Jaylen Brown missing both games.
The Celtics are third in the East with a record of 43-21, 3 games behind the 2nd place Toronto Raptors and 2.5 games ahead of the 4th place Heat. The Suns are 13th in the West with a record of 26-39, 6 games out of 8th place. They would need to be within 4 games of 8th place in order to have a chance to make the playoffs.
Ricky Rubio didn’t arrive in the bubble until July 17 and first practiced on Tuesday. He missed their first scrimmage but is expected to play in this one. If he is unable to play, Ty Jerome should once again start at the point. Jalen Lecque is not with the team. Elie Okobo arrived in the Bubble on Saturday and has not yet cleared quarantine. Former Celtic, Aron Baynes is not with the team after testing positive for Covid and is waiting to have 2 negative tests before he can join the team. Kelly Oubre, Jr is questionable with a knee injury.
For the Celtics, Kemba Walker missed the first scrimmage. He has been struggling with soreness in his knee but has been able to practice and was said to feel good afterwards. He was a full participant in Saturday’s practice but according to Brad Stevens, he may not play in this game. If Kemba is out, Smart should start at the point once again. However, I’m hoping to see Kemba in this scrimmage, even if in limited minutes. Romeo Langford missed the first scrimmage with a stomach illness but was able to practice on Saturday and should play in this game.
Probable Celtics Starters
Romeo Langford (stomach) probable
Kemba Walker (knee) questionable
Probable Suns Starters
Frank Kaminsky III
Kelly Oubre, Jr. (knee) questionable
Aron Baynes (covid) out
Elie Okobo (personal) out
Jalen Lecque (personal) out
Jaylen Brown 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 26.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 6.6 assists. He is shooting 50.5% from the field and 35.7% from three. The Celtics need to play very good defense on him, whether it is Marcus Smart or Jaylen Brown who is matched up with him.
Daniel Theis vs Deandre Ayton
Ayton is averaging 19.0 points, 12.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.7 blocks per game. He is shooting 55.8% from the field. He didn’t attempt a 3 in the regular season but hit one in the Suns’ first scrimmage. He finished that scrimmage with 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists. Theis will need to keep Ayton out of the paint and off the boards.
Marcus Smart vs Ricky Rubio
Rubio has had some big games against the Celtics in the past. He is averaging 13.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 8.9 assists. I’m really hoping that Kemba Walker plays in this game but since Brad said that he may not, I’m including Marcus Smart in the starting lineup. It would be a fun matchup to watch if Kemba does play, however.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. The Celtics are 4th with a defensive rating of 106.2. The Suns have a defensive rating of 111.3 (19th) The Celtics did not play very good defense against the Thunder and they need to communicate more on the defensive end if they want to win this one. The Celtics need to guard the perimeter as the Suns have players who can hit from outside but if they allow the Suns to get to the hoop for layups like they did the Thunder, this may be another loss.
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 9th in the league with 14.5 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.
Take Care of the Ball - Against the Thunder the Celtics only turned the ball over 13 times and they will need to make careful passes and take care of the ball again in this game. The Suns are 5th in the league with 18.7 points off turnovers per game. If they get careless with the ball, the Suns will make them pay.
Bench Play - After getting glowing reports from practices about the play of the reserves leading up to the first scrimmage, the Celtics second unit was underwhelming in this game. Aside from the play of Enes Kanter, there wasn’t a lot to be excited about once the starters sat. The reserves must step up their play if the Celtics expect to be contenders.
Communication - After the scrimmage against the Thunder, Brad Stevens said that Chris Paul dominated the game with his voice. The Celtics need to be louder and to communicate with each other better, especially on defense.
Who is Playing - The Suns are missing several players due to covid and personal reasons along with a knee injury to Kelly Oubre. If Oubre can play, it would give them a definite boost. With the status of both Ricky Rubio and Kemba Walker in question, if one plays but the other doesn’t, it would give a definite advantage to that team.
Bubble Conditions - We still don’t know how the lack of fans will affect teams and referees. Will the bubble conditions affect young players more than vets or vice versa. These conditions may affect the teams for the remainder of the season and it may take awhile to know which teams will be most affected.