When: 11:00 am (Phoenix time) - earrrrrrrlllyyyyyyy
TV: Fox Sports Arizona
Radio: 98.7 FM
The Boston Celtics have the best record in the NBA. Offensively, they're a middle of the pack NBA team (16th) but defensively they are #1 which spells real trouble for the Suns' 25th ranked offense. As we saw in Detroit on Wednesday, if a team can keep the ball out of Devin Booker's hands (Book was only able to get off 8 shots in that game), the Suns offense curls up and dies. Don't expect Boston to have not noticed that... and don't expect them to have forgotten Booker's 70 point game on their home court last season.
Devin Booker is a marked man in Boston.
Kyrie Irving is the Celtic most in the spotlight but his "supporting cast" is what makes the Celtics really dangerous. Irving is averaging 23.4 ppg but Jaylen Brown (15.0 ppg), Al Horford (13.9 ppg), Jayson Tatum (13.7 ppg) and our old friend Marcus Morris (13.0 ppg) combine for 55.6 ppg. These 5 account for 76% of the Celtics' scoring on any given night. And every single one of them is hitting at least 37.0% of their threes with rookie Jayson Tatum leading the way with 48.6%.
Boston is 10th in three point attempts, makes and percentage so expect them to continue to shoot the long balls and exploit the Suns' weak 3pt defense. The Celtics are below average in scoring in the paint (22nd) but the Suns are dead last in defending the paint so that's unlikely to make any real difference in the outcome.
Unlike the Suns, the Celtics play at a slower pace (22nd in the NBA). If their #1 defense can force the Suns into slowing down and playing their game, we could be looking at another very long game.
Likely Starting Lineup
PG - Kyrie Irving
SG - Jaylen Brown
SF - Jayson Tatum
PF - Al Horford
C - Aron Baynes
Points: Kyrie Irving (23.4)
Rebounds: Al Horford (8.1)
Assists: Marcus Smart (5.3)
Hopefully, Jay Triano will be prepared with adjustments if the Celtics try to copy the Pistons' strategy of denying Devin Booker the ball and shot attempts. Booker still got 22 points but it really disrupted the entire offense and the Suns were unprepared to adjust. And they weren't just keying on Booker. The ball rarely made it into T.J. Warren's hands either as he only had 6 shot attempts in the Piston's game. Booker and Warren had 10 points combined at the half in the Detroit game and that can't happen again.
To have any hope in this game the Suns are also going to have to take care of the ball and avoid excessive turnovers. They are going to have to crank up their defensive effort and control the pace, making the Celtics play a faster game than they prefer. They are going to have to find a way to get Booker and/or Warren going offensively early on and hope for someone else to step up offensively to take some of the pressure off of the Suns' two main scorers.
And that may depend on who the Suns start and how Triano handles the rotations. He's been alternating starting Tyson Chandler and Greg Monroe at center and sometimes playing the other as the backup with Len getting a DNP-CD. Who knows what he will try today but Alex Len may not be available as he is listed as "day-to-day" due to an ankle injury. Marquese Chriss is my best guess as to who will start at PF but again, who knows.
Likely Starting Lineup
PG - Tyler Ulis
SG - Devin Booker
SF - T.J. Warren
PF - Marquese Chriss (?)
C - Greg Monroe (?)
Points: Devin Booker (23.0)
Rebounds: Alex Len (9.4)
Assists: Mike James (4.1)
Suns: Alex Len - day-to-day (ankle)
Celtics: Marcus Smart - day-to-day (leg injury)
It's going to take an exceptional team effort to keep this game from looking like a replay of the Suns/Pistons game on Wednesday. I wish I could offer up something more positive but it is what it is.
One thing that I can be positive of is that there will be several comments in the game thread and/or recap articles bemoaning the fact that the Suns didn’t pull the trigger on trading for Kyrie Irving when they had the opportunity.
Bright Side Night
You know you really want to help send more kids to the Suns vs Pacers game on January 14.