What: Phoenix Suns (27-26) vs. Boston Celtics (37-15)
When: 5:30 PM AZ Time
Where: TD Garden, Boston, MA
Watch: Bally Sports Arizona, NBATV
Listen: 98.7 FM
The Phoenix Suns will be traveling cross country to start a five-game east coast road trip, the first of which coming against the league-best Boston Celtics.
The Suns are winners of six of their last eight games, but coming off a perplexing loss to the Atlanta Hawks. Meanwhile, the Celtics are 4-3 over the last two weeks and are coming off a blowout home win over the Brooklyn Nets.
The Suns will need much better efforts, from all available entities of their rotation, in this one as the Celtics are one of the most complete, versatile, and deep teams in the NBA.
They will have their hands full at each position, but especially on the wing with arguably the best wing tandem in the league, in Tatum and Brown.
Projected Starting Lineups
- Deandre Ayton
- Cam Johnson
- Torrey Craig
- Mikal Bridges
- Chris Paul
- Robert Williams III
- Al Horford
- Jayson Tatum
- Jaylen Brown
- Derrick White
- Devin Booker (OUT)
- Landry Shamet (OUT)
- Cam Payne (OUT)
- Jae Crowder (NWT)
- Marcus Smart (OUT)
- Danilo Gallinari (OUT)
On ESPN prior to the Suns blowout loss to the Hawks on Wednesday, was the Celtics blowout win, 139-96 over the Nets, led by an all-encompassing 31/9/4/2/1 stat line (including seven made threes) from Tatum.
The Celtics have been without their leader and tone-setter, Marcus Smart, for the last five games due to a right ankle sprain.
On the season, they pair the second-best offensive efficiency (118.6) with the fifth-best defense (111.5), making for the league's best net efficiency differential, of +7.0.
They, a lot like the Suns, love to set up shop on the elbows and run sets through the middle third of the floor, working sometimes from the elbows, and incorporating all types of three-player actions to pull at the strings of any defensive scheme.
It also greatly benefits them to have five players on the floor, at any given time, capable of making the requisite pass to set, maintain, or exploit an advantage, in any given scenario.
It will be key for the Suns to do a much better job keeping their defensive shell intact, while also applying pressure and containing the ball from an individual standpoint. This will greatly aid in allowing for their help defenders to stay home, rather than rotating and having their defensive dominoes fall in the manner that they did, with regularity, against Atlanta.
The Mikal Bridges vs [insert Celtic here] match-up intrigues me the most as his point-of-attack or wing-stopping activity will be much needed.
The Suns, while coming off of a (very) subpar showing against Atlanta, still are tied for the best record over the last two weeks, at 6-2.
In this window, with integral pieces returning to the rotation, they pair a 25th-ranked offense (111.5) with the sixth-best defense (110.2).
Both of those marks ballooned in the wrong direction after Wednesday night's showing, nonetheless, this prideful group will be looking to re-right the ship as well as right their wrongs from their last matchup with these Celtics.
The Suns have seen positive play from Paul, Bridges, and Ayton of late, with the former two operating in a manner that this team has desperately needed as they reverse the tides of the team's injury-riddled stretch through the first third of the season.
They also will need to see a return to form from both Cam Johnson as well as the bench unit, as all hands will be on deck against a stout Celtics team.
Phoenix will need Bridges to continue his stretch of operating as a primary pressure point offensively, in tandem with the playmaking wizardry from the Point God, Chris Paul.
The Suns will right their wrongs, and add another timestamp in their (re)ascension with a gritty and prideful win in Boston. Paul, Bridges, Ayton, and Johnson will rebound and put forth connected performances that have grown mostly sustained over this stretch of play.