Preview: Boston Celtics (35-10) at Phoenix Suns (20-24)

Phoenix Suns 88, Boston Celtics 71


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PHOENIX — Lately, the Phoenix Suns have not been taking care of business against teams that they should. They might try taking a cue from the Boston Celtics.

The current Eastern Conference leader has gone 20-5 against teams below .500. In most years, the Suns wouldn’t fall into that category.

Friday’s game at US Airways Center may mean more than it appears to on the surface. Suns coach Alvin Gentry, though, wouldn’t get too hyperbolic at Thursday’s practice.

“I don’t know if us losing to Boston or something is going to be the difference in having a great year or not having a great year,” Gentry said. “The next two games are not going to define our season.”

True, the Suns will have 36 games remaining after Sunday’s game against New Orleans, but just nine until the trade deadline, a point at which the Suns may have to evaluate what direction to take.

For now, the Suns remain focused on the Boston Celtics, who lost to Phoenix in both meetings last season (to be fair, there was an All-Star power forward playing for the Suns). In the two games, the Suns outscored the Celtics by an average of 12.5 points. They also dominated from the perimeter, shooting 44.9 percent from three-point range, while holding the Celtics to 25.6 percent from deep.

Currently, the Celtics lead the NBA in field goal percentage, as they’re making 50.2 percent of their shots. The Suns are right behind them in the No. 2 spot at 47.3 percent. Thus, it may come down to defense.

It’s no secret that the Suns are one of the worst defensive teams in the league, but they have recently fared OK on the defensive end. The problem becomes finishing on the other end.

“We collectively haven’t had the discipline to finish plays on both ends of the floor, whether it’s loose balls, rebounds, finishing a rotation or knocking down a shot or finishing at the basket,” Suns point guard Steve Nash said. “Whatever it is, we all need to just tighten up a little bit.”

The Suns will also face the challenge of matching up with Boston’s size. With the offseason additions of former Sun Shaquille O’Neal and the recent return of Kendrick Perkins, the Celtics have only gotten bigger.

Marcin Gortat is likely to get the most minutes at center for the Suns, but Robin Lopez’s size and physicality may be needed at times.

A win over a top opponent could give the Suns something they almost certainly need right now.

“We’ve got to come out and compete, give ourselves a chance,” Nash said. “This is a game where if we find a way to win it could really give us a lot of confidence.”

Nash will face off with current NBA assist leader Rajon Rondo, whose 12.7 assists per game place him above Nash’s second-leading 11.0. Nash had high praise when asked about the young point guard after Thursday’s practice.

“Rondo’s one of the top players in the league,” Nash said. “He does a lot for his team every night. I think he gives them something else that they haven’t had. He’s definitely earned his reputation.”

There is, as always, no shortage of challenges in playing the Celtics, but the big picture is that the Suns desperately need a win.

Tags: Boston Celtics Phoenix Suns Preview

  • Damian Romano

    While it may appear the Suns “need” a win here tonight that quite possibly could give them some much needed confidence, there are too many lingering issues that confidence doesn’t seem to provide an answer to. The three are defense, rebounding, and that “impact” player. While it seemed that last year the Suns bought into a more defensive mindset, they’ve all but lost it this year. Regarding rebounding I don’t think much is needed to explain here. Rebounding is primarily predicated on a big man’s position and willingness. Gortat has shown signs, and at time Lopez to a lesser degree. Let’s face it, our impact player is gone. Nash has single handedly turned a bunch of misfits and has-been’s into a .500 team. This team without Nash is easily no better than Sacramento,. When you had to rely on Jason Richardson, and now have to rely on an aging Vince Carter, you’re nothing but lottery bound.

    Now, that doesn’t mean that the Suns couldn’t remedy their problems. A few adjustments defensively (zone?) and possibly another trade could quite possibly put this team into the playoffs. Will they be a playoff contender, not sure. But that’s what they all said last year too.

    Nice blog btw.


  • Zak

    “I don’t know if us losing to Boston or something is going to be the difference in having a great year or not having a great year,” Gentry said. The way he phrased that statement tells me that he expects to loose tonight. Yeah, I really don’t expect the Suns to win tonight either… but I’m not their coach! It’s just NOT good when the coach OR the players phrase a statement this way. I tells me that Gentry expects to loose tonight and I suppose he’s also let that attitude be known to the Suns’ players even if he hasn’t outright told them that he expects them to loose tonight. It tells me that he’s lost faith in the team and they can’t help but pick up on that. “The next two games are not going to define our season” also tells me that he doesn’t think that they can win against New Orleans. It makes me wonder if Gentry hasn’t given up on this season. Yes, I may be nit-picking but but it sounds like Gentry may be out of ideas and ready to give up on this season… which certainly isn’t good for the team. It’s as though he’s saying, “Well we’re going to loose to Boston and New Orleans but don’t worry about that. It doesn’t mean we can’t turn things around eventually.”

  • Mel.

    The only response that comes to mind in summarizing this game: “Wuuuuh?”