When the Boston Celtics sauntered into US Airways Center back on Jan. 28, the Suns’ season seemed to be circling the drain.
Phoenix had lost three in a row in depressing fashion following a five-game winning streak that seemed to save their season and with tough home games against the Celtics, Hornets and Thunder coming up on that homestand the Suns were in trouble.
And then the Suns pounded the Celtics 88-71 with a defensive effort so dominant it was their fourth-most efficient showing of the last 15 years against a Boston team that to this day leads the NBA in field-goal percentage at 49.1 percent. On that night the Celtics knocked down just 34.2 percent of their shots, their worst shooting performance of the Big Three era.
It would be easy to attribute blame to the Celtics arriving in Phoenix in the wee hours after a hard-fought game in Portland while looking ahead to a Sunday showdown against the Lakers, but at least some credit needs to go to a Suns defense that has vastly improved its defensive field-goal percentage in the last several weeks.
The Celtics will surely be out for revenge to atone for that pitiful performance, and there might be a bit more motivation on both sides stemming from Kevin Garnett’s late act of thuggery.
You may remember that KG stepped under Channing Frye twice on jumpers and on the second one he added a tap to the groin that earned him an ejection and set off a little scuffle between the two teams. This followed a Mickael Pietrus forearm to Garnett that earned the Suns’ swingman a Flagrant 1 and later had him boasting about how the Suns are soft no longer.
Alvin Gentry added fuel to the fire by going on KTAR and saying he “lost a little respect” for Garnett in the aftermath of this and some of his other incidents, which caused Doc Rivers to pipe back, “I’ll just let Alvin talk. He seems to do that well.”
For a team like the Celtics that thrives on emotion, they figure to be just a tad bit more pumped about for this one than than that trap game earlier this season, although teams often struggle on their first game back from a long trip to the other coast as this one will be for Boston.
Frye certainly figures to receive plenty of attention from Garnett and the Celtics if this one is within a shot in the final seconds after hitting the first two game-winning shot of his career Sunday in Indiana and then Monday in New Jersey.
Those daggers have helped Phoenix start off the road trip a perfect 3-0, but tonight’s game figures to be the toughest of the trip against the defending Eastern Conference champs.
The Suns, who have won three in a row against the Celtics, used a win in Boston last season to trigger a superb early-season road trip that led to their 14-3 start.
Another win in the TD Garden would continue what’s shaping up to be another special road trip for the Suns, who have gone from four game under .500 to four games over .500 by ripping off an 11-3 run that started with their last visit from the Celtics.
I took part in a little vlog action with Red94’s Rahat Huq on the Brooks-Dragic trade. Check it out below: