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Game Preview: Suns face Celtics on second day of back to back

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Phoenix started the road trip 2-0 with wins over the Bucks and 76ers, eye 3-0.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns (42-16) at Boston Celtics (31-27)

When: 4:00 PM MST

Where: TD Garden

Watch: Bally Sports Arizona, NBA League Pass

Listen: 98.7 FM


The Suns have got off to a great start on this tough East Coast road trip, starting 2-0 with wins over the Bucks in OT and the 76ers (thankfully that shot by Embiid rimmed out). They look to continue their strong play and take down the shorthanded Celtics next.

Boston won’t be going down without a fight, though, as they’re 8-2 over their last 10 games and All-Star Jayson Tatum is set to play.


Injury Report

PHX: Abdel Nader (OUT)

*Jae Crowder missed the second half of Suns-76ers with a rolled ankle, so he may be added to the injury report today

BOS: Robert Williams (OUT), Evan Fournier (DOUBTFUL), Jaylen Brown (DOUBTFUL), Kemba Walker (QUESTIONABLE)


Projected Starters

(Assuming the above mentioned players are all out)

PHX: Chris Paul—Devin Booker—Mikal Bridges—Jae Crowder—Deandre Ayton

BOS: Payton Pritchard—Marcus Smart—Semi Ojeleye—Jayson Tatum—Tristan Thompson


Keys to the Game

Get Deandre Ayton involved early

Before yesterday’s game against the 76ers, Deandre had been on a tear, making over 70% of his field goals and averaging 18.7 points over the last 9 games. Despite the box score, Ayton played solid D on Embiid, but he was in foul trouble most of the night.

The Good News – DA only played 29 minutes at Philadelphia and will be a bit less tired than the rest of the starters and look to get back to his recent strong play. Tristan Thompson will likely start at center for the Celtics and he’s 6-foot-9 so the Suns should look to take advantage of the size mismatch and a less tired DA.

However, Boston does have some size to counter with Luke Kornet (7-foot-2) and Tacko Fall (7-foot-5). Deandre is more skilled than both so Phoenix should look his way early.

Keep Jayson Tatum in check

This is the case most nights but Jayson will be the best player on the floor for Boston. Today, with the Celtics being shorthanded, they’ll likely feature him exclusively as their ticket to success similar to how the 76ers did with Embiid. The man can definitely own that as he’s gone for 32, 44 and 53 on separate occasions just over the last 6 games.

The Suns have several capable defenders, including Mikal Bridges who fares pretty well against Tatum. In their first match this season, he was limited to 23 points on 22 shots. Also, in his last game, he only made 3 of his 17 shots for a total of 14 points. It’s no easy task but it can be done and if you just control him and don’t let him go off, that helps the cause.

Use momentum from yesterday’s 4th quarter to project Book

It’s no secret that Devin has been in quite the bit of a funk lately. While many spoke about how well he’s done against the 76ers throughout his career, the same can be said about the Celtics. In his last 7 games against Boston, Booker has averaged 35.4 points, 7.4 assists and 5.4 rebounds. He comes to play, especially at the Garden as evidenced by his 70-point night there a few seasons back.

Yesterday, in the fourth quarter with 2:03 left to play, he scored 8 points. The Suns should look to build off that momentum and help snap him out of the funk and propel him to a hot streak which would immensely help on this trip.


Prediction

Suns win 115-110