Preview: Phoenix Suns (31-21) vs Boston Celtics (19-35)


Time: 7 p.m. MST

TV: FSA

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I don’t think Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens is like most people that live on the East Coast. The “East Coast bias” usually comes with the fact that a majority of the people that live there don’t get to watch many games on the opposite side of the country due to late start times. Stevens seems to not fit into that category.

Not only is the Celtics coach able to go in depth about the Suns, but he sounded like he knows them better than most people in Phoenix. After Wednesday morning shootaround, Stevens gave the Suns high praises from the coaching staff on down to every player that plays in their 9-man rotation.

“They play exceptionally hard, exceptionally well together,” Stevens said. “They are expertly coached on both ends of the court and clearly pulling together, which is really fun to watch on the outside.

“What’s happening in my opinion is that you also have a guy that is blossoming into a star, in Dragic. He is probably the most overlooked guy from an All-Star standpoint in the league.”

Tonight is the Celtics’ first game since the All-Star break and they are well-rested for the fast-paced Suns, who are coming off an emotional 112-107 overtime win at Denver the night before. Not only does Stevens have his team rested, but he has them prepared for the Suns’ running style.

“I feel like we can,” said forward Kris Humphrie. “Is that our strong suit matched-up against them? Probably not. A lot of teams that run the court well don’t get back on defense, so I think we can go at them a little bit.”

If the Celtics could pick a night to run with the Suns, tonight would be that night.

The question is, can the Suns overcome the fatigue of playing on back-to-back nights against a team that has been off for a week? Well, they need to find a way.

They are only 6-5 in the 2014 calendar year at home. For a team battling for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, they can not afford a slip up and have no excuses to lose to an underachieving Celtics team on their home court.

Let’s take a look at some key’s for tonight’s contests.

Can Frye stroke it?

If he does, I will be pretty impressed. Both Humphries and Stevens at the Celtics’ shootaround today brought up his shooting as a key to this game. If that is the case, that means they will be keying on him when the Suns have the ball on offense. Humphries should spend some time guarding Frye tonight and he was very blunt on how to stop the Suns.

“We have to slow them down in transition and take away Frye’s three-point looks,” Humphries said.

Frye is six for his last 14 from downtown and has started to break out of a prior 4-for-20 slump. He will have his work cut out for him tonight against a prepared Celtics team.

Can tired legs outrun fresh legs?

As mentioned, the Celtics are fresh and the Suns are not. Simple as that. Rondo is starting to play better after missing the first three months of the season with his ACL injury. He has notched double-digit assists in three of his past four games and is starting to score the ball a bit. Rondo can keep up the pace, but can anyone else run with him? It will be important for the second unit, mainly Ish Smith and Leandro Barbosa, to keep it at a fast pace when Rondo is out and to relieve some pressure for the starters that played heavy minutes last night.

Gerald Green’s encore?

Late in the third quarter on Tuesday, the Suns were up 76-65 before the Nuggets went on a 20-2 run that extended into the beginning of the fourth to take a seven point lead. With momentum on the other side, the Suns were desperate for a spark, which Green provided at that moment. He scored eight straight points with back-to-back three pointers to cut the deficit to a point and get the team that jump it needed to help propel it to a win. Green scored a career high 36 points in only 30 minutes of playing time with 27 of those coming in the second half and overtime. It will be tough for him to match those numbers tonight, but you know he will give it a shot.

Tags: Boston Celtics Brad Stevens Gerald Green Goran Dragic Phoenix Suns