Two nights ago I was eager to see if the Suns could continue their impressive play against some of the NBA’s best. The Magic ended that anxiousness very quickly, halting the Suns’ early-season momentum by way of a 122-100 victory.
Tonight the Suns have a chance to redeem themselves against an even superior NBA power, the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics are absolutely loaded this season. In my opinion, this is the best team in the NBA. With the addition of Rasheed Wallace and the healthy core of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo, this unit will not lose very many games. The Celtics are coming off an ugly two-point victory over the Minnesota T-Wolves, but an ugly victory is much better than an ugly loss; just ask the Suns.
While the Celts were building on their undefeated record, the Suns’ streak was ending. The Suns got nothing going against Orlando and frankly looked like a team that didn’t belong on the same court as a Magic team that was without Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter.
As the game was over in the third quarter, the starters were able to get some rest, Hill 18 minutes and Nash 22 minutes. There is no reason this team shouldn’t come out with fresh legs and get the offense going, besides the fact that they are playing the Boston Celtics.
The Celts are currently giving up the fewest points per game in the NBA, 81.5. Opponents are shooting only 40.7 percent from the field and 24.7 percent from three against them. Considering the Suns rely so heavily on their shooting prowess, this one could get ugly.
The Celtics have won the last three matchups between these two teams, each by at least 17 points. Rondo is averaging 23.0 points per game during that stretch and should have a solid game against the “defenseless” Suns. I would expect this contest to be a lot like the Magic game, some scoring runs for the Suns but no substantial push.
The Celtics match up too well with this Phoenix group. Rondo gives Nash fits, Garnett locks down Amare, and the Suns have no one to guard Paul Pierce and no one to close out on an open Ray Allen. Add Rasheed Wallace in the mix and Nash and Hill may be on the bench for the final 18 minutes yet again.
It will be interesting to see how STAT looks coming off a big game — 25 points and 14 rebounds against Dwight Howard and Orlando — especially after he scored just three points on 0-for-7 shooting to go with one rebound in 30 minutes last year in Boston. Will he carry that over against one of the NBA’s best defenses? How will the Suns’ offense as a whole perform against Doc Rivers’ stingy defense?
The Suns will need more production from J-Rich and Hill, who combined for zero points on 0-for-9 shooting against the Magic. The Suns may get some added perimeter scoring if Leandro Barbosa is able to return from a wrist injury, but his status is still up in the air.
Barbosa told The Arizona Republic, “If I feel good, I’ll go. Right now, when I dribble, it feels like something pops in my wrist. The pain is not as bad as it used to be.”
I assumed that we would know a lot more about this Suns team after the Orlando game, but Phoenix rolled over and played dead in the third quarter, and we really never got a good idea of how this team can play against top competition. This is the Suns’ chance to rebound and make a statement, proving that they can hang with the NBA’s elite.