When: 10:30 AM Phoenix time
Where: The Orlando Bubble
Watch: Fox Sports Arizona Plus
Listen: 98.7 FM
Both teams approach their second scrimmage uncertain about their point guard leader. Celtics’ Kemba Walker has been dealing with some right knee soreness, and there’s no need to aggravate it or extend the recovery time by grinding in a meaningless scrimmage. Suns’ Ricky Rubio just got over COVID-19 and might get his first game action today, but he also might not. Again, no need to push it in a scrimmage. We’ll see.
The Celtics are the 3rd seed in the East, with the potential to rise or drop a spot in the eight seeding games that start later this week. But overall they will be a top-four seed in the East when playoffs begin.
The Suns are 13th in the West and are using these games to mostly just solidify their schemes and develop players for the 2020-21 season. On the Bright Side, that means they are treating every single scrimmage and game as vitally important — possibly more important than most of their opponents. To a man, the coaches and players are “locked in”.
Check out this great article from our brothers over at CelticsBlog.com on 10 Takeaways from the Celtics-Thunder scrimmage. The team was not excited about the results of the first scrimmage though the bloggers did find some bright spots.
Regardless how they looked in their opening scrimmage, the Celtics are a very good team. Possibly a Finals contender.
Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are the dynamic wing duo who each might become multi-time All-Stars, while All-Star Kemba Walker runs the show from the point. Gordon Hayward, Daniel Theis and Marcus Smart all provide the juice and the sizzle to round out that top six and help the Celtics to top-5 ratings on both offense and defense leading to a 41-23 record.
Kemba Walker did not play in the opening scrimmage, and may not play on Sunday either.
There are several things to watch in today’s scrimmage.
Without Ricky Rubio to run the show, the Suns had only 17 assists on 36 made field goals (47%) in their first scrimmage. This after leading the NBA all season with a 66.6% assist percentage. They still shot 51.7% from the floor and took 29 free throws, so we can’t complain too much. It’s just something to watch out for.
The Suns were great at attacking the rim, but they struggled from deep — on both percentage made (27%) and attempts (22) — which is continuing trend from the season. Again, it was an easy win, but taking more threes is a better recipe for success as play improves across the league.
“I think we could shoot a little bit more threes,” Booker said after the game (he was 0-2 himself). “I think Cam passed up a couple.”
Dario Saric was especially effective on both ends, and you can count the team excited to see this development from him. He was talking a ton on defense, in the huddles, and being aggressive on offense — he took nine free throws in the 40-minute scrimmage, and attempted 10 field goals, grabbed six rebounds and dished an assist.
“I haven’t heard Dario talk this much in my life,” Williams said of Dario. “And I’ve been with him twice now. I love to see him playing with that kind of bravado.”
Watch to see if Mikal Bridges continues to show offensive aggression like he did on Thursday. The Suns would be well-served if Mikal could develop into a third scoring option, especially with Kelly Oubre Jr. sidelined. Bridges had a team-high 14 points in the 40-minute scrimmage.
“He’s much more than [a 3-and-D guy],” Booker said of Bridges. “Him being aggressive like that is what we are going to need. Tonight he showed glimpses he can be a scorer and he can make plays.”
Also, watch to see if Deandre Ayton takes more threes in this scrimmage. Monty Williams has apparently decided that it’s time to design sets where Ayton is expected to spot and launch, rather that waiting for him to create his own opportunities in the flow of the offense.
“I’m excited to see one of them down for him.” Booker said of Ayton. “He’s been working on it. He literally told me he was going to hit a three (at halftime). That’s a good step on his birthday.”
Another thing the Suns liked was their defense. Though they all made first-game mistakes, Booker liked their overall approach to the game on that end. The Suns only have a few good individual defenders right now (Ayton, Bridges and Jevon Carter, with Ricky and Aron Baynes sidelined) so it needs to be a collective team effort to get the job done.
“Our defensive scheme is what is going to get us through,” Booker said. “Even when they go on runs… we never stopped playing. Communication was high.”
“Our guys are trying with everything they have to follow the schemes,” Williams said. “The aggression and competitive edge on defense was at a high level. I want it to be higher, but at first glance I like what I saw tonight.”
The last time these teams played, the Suns got a great road win, 123-119, despite Marcus Smart draining a mind-blowing 11 threes. Devin Booker had 39 points on a near triple-double (10 rebounds, 9 assists), while Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton each had 26. Ayton also had 15 rebounds and 2 blocks.
The game starts early! 10:30 AZ time, on Fox Sports Arizona PLUS. Take note: that’s a different channel than usual, because the usual channel has the Dbacks game on.
This is a full 48-minute scrimmage, by the way. The first scrimmage was the only one shortened to 40, so you can expect the players to be sucking wind by the fourth quarter.