The Celtics complete their home stand as they host the Phoenix Suns. This is the 4th and final game of the 4 game home stand. The Celtics are 2-1 so far, losing to the Knicks before beating the Lakers and Nets. The Celtics will head to Detroit for one game on the road before returning to Boston for another 3 game home stand.
The Suns and Celtics split the series 1-1 last season with each team winning on their home court. This is the first game of a 5 game road trip for the Suns. It is the first of back to back games with a game in Detroit on Saturday. The Celtics are 75-59 overall all time against the Suns and they are 42-23 all time in games played in Boston. This is the 2nd and final game between these two teams. The Celtics won the first game 125-98 in Phoenix on December 7 and led that game by as many as 45 points in the second half.
The Celtics are 1st in the East. They are 2 games ahead of 2nd place Milwaukee. The Celtics are 3 games ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia and 5.5 games ahead of 4th place Nets. The Celtics are 20-6 at home and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 16-4 against Western Conference teams and they have won their last 2 games.
The Suns are 7th in the West. They are 9.5 games behind 1st place Denver, half a game behind 6th place Minnesota and 1 game ahead of 11th place Portland. They are 8-17 on the road and 6-4 in their last 10 games. They are 7-12 against Eastern Conference opponents. They lost their last game but have won 6 of their last 8 games.
Marcus Smart remains out for the Celtics with a sprained ankle. Danilo Gallinari remains out with a torn ACL. For the Suns, Jay Crowder remains out as the Suns look for a trade to move him to another team. Devin Booker has been out since Christmas with a groin injury and will miss this game but hopes to return Tuesday. Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet are both out with foot injuries.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Marcus Smart (ankle) out
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Suns Starters
2 Way Players
Jae Crowder (not injury related) out
Devin Booker (groin) out
Cameron Payne (foot) out
Landry Shamet (foot) out
Robert Williams III vs Deandre Ayton
Ayton is averaging 17.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game. He is shooting 57.4% from the field and 30.4% from beyond the arc. In the first game against the Celtics, Ayton scored just 8 points but had 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal as well. Ayton has improved quite a bit shooting threes and so the Celtics have to stay with him on the perimeter. They also need to keep Ayton out of the paint and off the boards.
Jaylen Brown vs Mikal Bridges
Bridges is averaging 16.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 46.1% from the field and 39.2% from beyond the arc. He struggled in the first game against the Celtics with just 4 points on 16.7% shooting. He has played in every game of his career thus far and he currently holds the NBA’s longest active Ironman streak. He is also a first team all defense player and will make things difficult for Jaylen on the offensive end.
Derrick White vs Chris Paul
Chris Paul is playing very well for the Suns and is one of the reasons they have been so successful over the past two seasons. He is averaging 14.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 8.5 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He is shooting 44.5% from the field and 40.4% from beyond the arc. He struggled in the first game against the Celtics with just 4 points on 33% shooting to go with 4 rebounds and 4 assists. He runs the Suns offense and the Celtics need to keep him from getting open shots and also they need to keep him from easily setting up his teammates.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 110.6 (4th) but they let their defense lapse at times so they need to concentrate on playing tough lock down defense at all times. The Suns are 13th with an offensive rating of 113.5 and so the Celtics must make defense a priority if they want to win this game.
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 the Suns are 10th with 14.9 second chance points per game. The Celtics are going to have to put out extra effort to win the battle of the boards against the Suns.
Play Hard 48 Minutes - The Celtics seem to have lapses where they let up on their effort and where they lose focus for awhile. The Celtics have lost to sub .500 teams by allowing them to be the team that plays harder. We saw what happens when they stay focused for 48 minutes and play hard the entire time against the Nets. They can’t afford to let the Suns play harder than them for any period of time. They must come out ready to play right from the opening tip and they have to play hard and stay focused through all 4 quarters right up until the final buzzer.
Move the Ball Carefully - The Celtics need to keep the ball moving and look for the open man and best shot. They are at their best when they move the ball and at their worst when they play hero ball and dribble too much. The Celtics also have to take care of the ball and avoid turnovers that seem to come in bunches at times. Against the Nets, the Celtics had 28 assists and just 10 turnovers. They need to play like that again in this game.
Home Game - The Celtics are at home where they should get a boost from the home crowd. They need to focus on the game and gain motivation from having the fans behind them. The Celtics are playing in the final game of a 4 game home stand so they didn’t have to travel and should be the more rested team. The Suns are playing in the 1st game of a 5 game road trip and should be dealing with distractions from travel, staying in a hotel, and playing in a hostile arena as well as fatigue from traveling. The Celtics need to protect home court and come out ready to play hard and win.
Revenge - The Celtics embarrassed the Suns in Phoenix, beating them by 27 points, but leading by as many as 45 points in the second half of the game. They are going to want to avenge that loss and will come in ready to play and try to get a win in this game. The Celtics need to be ready for their best shot and not allow them to get the revenge they will likely be looking to get.
Officiating - I know that I say this every game, but the officiating always has the possibility to be 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 call for both teams evenly. The Celtics have got to adjust to the way the game is being called and not allow the officiating to take away from their focus.