The Suns will get an up close and personal look at the kind of defense that wins championships in primetime on national TV Monday night when they visit the defending champion Boston Celtics.
That’s not to say the Suns need to play Boston’s brand of suffocating defense to win a title, because we know that will never happen with Phoenix’s personnel, but at least they’ll be seeing the kind of defense they’ll have to contend with on offense.
The Celts have had a kind of strange season thus far, ripping off a franchise-record 19 consecutive wins before a Christmas Day loss to the Lakers sent them on a tailspin of seven losses in nine games that included defeats to not exactly powerhouses in Golden State, the Knicks and Charlotte.
Now Boston has restored order with four consecutive victories in home and homes with Toronto and New Jersey.
Boston is still 20-2 at home, and as we saw in the playoffs last season at TD Banknorth Garden, the Celts dominate in their venue. But Denver and Houston have won in the building this year, so it’s not like there’s no hope.
Everybody knows about Boston’s defense that holds opponents to 97.1 points per 100 possessions, second in the NBA to Cleveland.
But the offense isn’t half bad either, ranking just a couple spots below the Suns in offensive efficiency and sixth in the NBA at 107.5 points per 100 possessions. Only Phoenix ranks ahead of Boston in true shoot percentage as well.
This would be a perfect place for the Suns to snap out of their road doldrums.
Their overall road record of 11-7 looks great on the surface, but all but one of those wins have come against teams under .500. Meanwhile, since winning the season opener in San Antonio, Phoenix has dropped its past six road games against good teams.
If the Suns are going to be anything more than a first round patsy they need to beat good teams on the road, and what better place to start doing that than in Boston?