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Game Preview: Phoenix Suns host Isaiah Thomas and Boston Celtics

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Isaiah Thomas says the Suns trading him to Boston was a “Christmas gift” and he keeps giving back by beating the Suns three times in a row since the trade.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns host Boston Celtics

When: EARLY TIPOFF, 3:00PM Phx time

Where: Phoenix, AZ

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


Once again, one-time Sun Isaiah Thomas returns to Phoenix to remind the organization they made a mistake in trading him.

And once again, the Phoenix Suns get a chance to knock off a winning team hoping to simply put another notch in their belt on their way to bigger and better.

Let’s spend the rest of this recap pointing out a pair of Celtics players that are just the start of an embarrassment of gifts being heaped on one of the league’s best teams already.

Isaiah Thomas was acquired for a low first round pick, while Jaylen Brown is the first booty of the Celtics/Nets trade in 2013 that sent aging Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn for a series of whats turning out to be impact draft picks, starting with 2016 #3 overall pick Jaylen Brown.

The Celtics

He were go with another reminder of a guy the Suns traded away who, in retrospect, was probably a guy they should have figured out how to keep.

Isaiah Thomas returns to Phoenix leading the East’s second best team, scoring a career high 29.4 points per game to go along with 6.2 assists and career highs in field goal and three-point percentage.

In just two calendar years since he was a backup for the Suns, Thomas has already been named to consecutive All-Star teams and has put himself on the fringes of the league MVP discussion.

Revisionist history says the Suns should have seen this coming, that Thomas was a perennial All-Star waiting to happen.

But whether you thought Thomas was a fringe starter or a fringe MVP candidate, we all agree (including Suns GM Ryan McDonough) that the Suns gave up on him too soon - just three months into his tenure with the team after being acquired for next to nothing from the Sacramento Kings.

Bygones are bygones. Thomas is in a better place now as the clear leader of the #2 team in the East.

He’s been incredibly productive for the Celtics, scoring 29.4 points per game and leading the league in 4th quarter scoring.

Since the trade, Thomas is against the Suns.

He posted 21 and 7 in a Celtics 5-point win just five days after being traded, coming off the bench for 21 games where the Celtics went 14-7 in games he played and surprisingly made the playoffs (lost first round to Cleveland).

Isaiah Thomas was quiet for most of the second half as the Suns came back from a 17-point halftime deficit, but in the final two minutes he made a 4-point play on a Brandon Knight foul and then a layup to put the Celtics ahead by 7 with 40 seconds left. And this was after the Suns had pulled within one point on a pair of Bledsoe threes.

There is no other way this could have ended. The Celtics won 115-110 after playing out the foul/score string.

Last year, he put up 19 and 5 and 28 and 3 in a pair of wins over the Suns, as the Celtics went 48-34 and once again made the playoffs (lost first round to Atlanta).

On Friday night, the Celtics blasted the Lakers, including this mid-game clowning of Thomas to rookie Jaylen Brown.

That kind of play led to Lakers coach Luke Walton benching his starters and blasting his players’ effort in the post game media session.

Now the transition to Jaylen Brown, who is starting to play very well for the Celtics.

Brown was taken third, just ahead of Dragan Bender. While the Suns insist that their whole focus was Bender and Chriss, they had to have thought about Brown as an option.

He’s been good in a small role until recently stepping into the starting lineup as Avery Bradley has been out.

In a starting role, Brown has averaged 9.3 points and 4.1 assists. Nothing to put him in ROY contention, but on a good team that can’t afford rookie mistakes, that’s impressive.

Over his last five games, all with 22+ minutes, he has scored in double figures in 4 off them, while pulling down 5+ rebounds in 4 games as well, capped with a 16/8 showing against the lowly Lakers in a 20-point win.

The Suns

Suns coach Earl Watson on playing so many young guys, including 7 who are 24-or-younger (4 who are 21 and under).

“For us, plenty of 19 year olds and 20 year olds, it’s just an amazing opportunity to help build something. Because you can really take coaching to another level. I think it made us better coaches.

You can help build an identity. You’re not changing a past identity. It’s all brand new. And they’re buying in.”

On the young guys bonding with each other and the Suns franchise.

“They are really taking this all in. It’s great opportunity. They really care about wearing that jersey, it means a lot to them. (growing up) you couldn’t wait to get the high school jersey, college, NBA. These guys have an older mentality.”

Prediction

I really can’t put together a reasonable scenario where the Suns pull this one out.

The team will rally around IT. No matter how much he says he doesn’t hold grudges against the Suns, you know IT holds a grudge.

Celtics win by 10.