Preview: Boston Celtics (28-26) at Phoenix Suns (18-37)

Time: 7:00 pm MST



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After an anticlimactic trade deadline, the Phoenix Suns will get back to business tonight as they host the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics lost All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo four weeks ago today. In the immediate aftermath of Rondo’s ACL injury, Boston reeled off seven wins in a row, their longest streak of the season. Since then, they’ve come back to Earth losing three of their last four. The Celtics, like the Suns, were rumored to be fishing for a big piece yesterday. But ultimately, all Boston landed was Jordan Crawford from the Washington Wizards in exchange for Jason Collins and an injured Leandro Barbosa. Not exactly the kind of acquisition that would cement Boston’s playoff hopes.

Currently, the Celtics are seventh in the Eastern Conference, a game and a half up on the Milwaukee Bucks who just traded for sharp shooter J.J. Redick. Like the Los Angeles Lakers, the Celtics playoff chances are tenuous at best despite their vast experience and pedigree. Boston is in the middle of a five game Western Conference road trip. They visit Phoenix tonight after losses at Denver and the Lakers earlier this week.

This is a very winnable game for the Suns. Boston may have a winning record, but their weaknesses (frontline depth, rebounding, scoring) are areas the Suns can exploit if they come to play tonight.

There are plenty of holes in Boston’s frontcourt. While Kevin Garnett is still productive on both ends of the floor, he’s undersized as a center and doesn’t rebound like he used to. Fellow starter Brandon Bass is also undersized and a below-average rebounder for a power forward. Jared Sullinger is hurt and out for the season. Jason Collins now plays for the Wizards. Jeff Green is really a small forward. And Fab Melo is, well, Fab Melo. The Suns chief objective tonight has to be to pound the paint continually on offense. KG is still a defensive presence inside, but Scola, Gortat, and Beasley should be able to overwhelm Boston on size alone. Throw in a possibly rejuvenated Markieff Morris and Jermaine O’Neal in the middle of a hot streak and facing his former team, and I fully expect the Suns to have 45-50 points in the paint tonight.

Another key for Phoenix’s big men is controlling the boards. The Celtics are last in the NBA in rebound rate according to John Hollinger’s stats. While Phoenix isn’t much better (23rd), it’s still a weakness the Suns have to exploit. Phoenix has improved their rebounding since the All Star break. They decimated Portland on the boards Tuesday night and hung with the Warriors on Wednesday (Golden State is 10th in rebound rate and 4th in rebounds per game.) If the Suns can limit the Celtics anemic offense to one shot and generate extra possessions on the offensive glass, they’ll have an excellent shot to send Boston to its third loss in a row.

The key matchup on the perimeter will be Avery Bradley versus Goran Dragic. Dragic has posted back-to-back double-doubles this week. Bradley, however, is a much better defender than anyone the Trail Blazers or Warriors threw at him. Goran does have size on Bradley, but he will have his work cut out for him nonetheless.

Another player to watch is Wesley Johnson. Johnson has become a big part of the Suns’ rotation in the last two games. This increase in his playing time, along with the Telfair trade, is just further proof that Lindsey Hunter’s youth movement is now in full effect.

And 1

  1. Neither Marcus Morris or Haddadi will be available for tonight’s game. Morris could make his debut on Sunday against San Antonio on Sunday according to Paul Coro.
  2. Jermaine O’Neal has said he will not ask for a buyout before the March 1st deadline. Seems fairly clear that working with the Suns’ training staff is more important to O’Neal this season than chasing a playoff spot. O’Neal is playing his best basketball of the season right now.

Tags: Boston Celtics Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Preview

  • Flame Proof motors

    I cannot WAIT to read more of this. I mean, you just know so much about this. So much of it Ive never even thought of. You sure did put a new twist on something that Ive heard so much about.

  • 4everis2long

    I want to continue seeing Wes Johnson get considerable playing time. The guy has really good form on his jump shot and is very athletic. While he can improve his ball handling skills, his confidence  should really start growing with more time, making him a fairly valuable commodity. I just want to see him in 30 days after he averages about 25 minutes a night.  
    Personally I doubt there is any hope for Markieff and his real twin, Kendall but let them play and maybe someone will give us a 2nd round pick for them in the summer. I also wish we can give Garrett some time between now and season end but it probably will not happen. Anyway I hope Dragic continues to shine and Gortat wakes up so he too can be traded this summer. Right now we might not get two Corn Flakes box tops for the guy.

    • SkyBill40

      @4everis2long I know he didn’t play up to expectations in MIN, but I, too, would like to see him get more run. He could turn into a really productive guy and perhaps a solid starter at some point if he develops some consistency on his shot. I thought he’d be in the starting spot for sure once word had spread around that Dudley and/or Tucker might be gone. Now that the deadline has passed and both are still around, does Hunter continue giving Wes minutes or does he go back to the pine?
      As has been established, I’ve never been a fan of the Marshall pick. It was a waste given the far better talent available at the time; despite that, we’re now stuck with him and need to see what he’s got. If he progresses along after some run in the summer league, then maybe things will be more positive for him. Garrett is a filler and little else. I know the kid has game, but it seems as though they have no interest in letting him show it. What a shame.
      Gortat should man up and get to his job of crashing the boards and scoring. Bitching isn’t going to solve anything and will only serve to hurt his trade value. I didn’t want to see him go to OKC since Perkins wouldn’t be a good fit here. Going to ATL for Smith would have been okay, but there was no way that was going to happen. Now, we need him to just get to work and help us win. I do like the guy and know he can easily be a nightly double double producer. The question is, does he even want to?

    • TySun

      @4everis2long  Yeah, Johnson should continue to get more time.  I would suspect that he’s probably very motivated to at least prove his worth since he’s on an expiring contract.  Since Gortat has another year on his contract, I’m not sure how motivated he is this season.  The fact that he has a limited offensive skill set doesn’t help much either.
      I still think that both the Morris twins will develop into solid rotation/backup players but that’s about it.  Marshall I’m just not sure about at all but if he continues to underwhelm when he’s on the court then Hunter should give Garrett a shot.  To be fair, maybe Hunter should use Marshall as the backup PG in the 1st half and Garrett as the backup in the 2nd half.  Doing that might be the best way to compare the two.

  • TySun

    If O’Neal is happy enough with what the Suns’ warlocks are doing for him, I certainly wouldn’t mind keeping him around next season.  If the Suns can bring in some young talent at the 5 while moving Gortat in the off-season, having him as the vet leader of the team certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing.
    As for tonight’s game, I’m really hoping more for a close, hard fought loss than a win.  That would keep the game interesting but not hurt the Suns’ chances at a high draft pick.
    And in this off-season I think we are going to see even more of the impact of the new CBA.  Very few role players are going to be offered multi-year contracts.  Legit stars are still going to get the max deals but everyone else is going to be lucky to get more than a 2-3 year contract.

  • 4everis2long

    I missed most of the 1st half, did W. Johnson play at least 10 minutes? I did watch the last 6 minutes of the half on the Boston feed. At halftime, Boston announcers said the Suns were the worst team they have seen all year. Ouch

  • Marcel

    Besides Auerbach, Russell, Havlicek, Parrish, Bird, McHale, Lewis and Maxwell, I couldn’t name any of those other rieertd numbers for the Celtics. The Toronto Maple Leafs have honored numbers, where a banner is hung for the player who made the number famous but current players are still allowed to wear it.