vs Phoenix Suns (7-24) at Boston Celtics (18-11)
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
7:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #30, Home Game #13
TV: NBA-TV, NBCSB,FSAZ
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, AZ Sports 98.7
TD GardenProbable Starters
PG Kyrie Irving........... SG: Marcus Smart
C: Aron Baynes
SF: Jayson Tatum .............. PF: Marcus Morris
Al Horford (knee) out
Guerschon Yabusele (ankle) out
Jabari Bird (personal) out
Jaylen Brown (hand) questionable
Brad Stevens Probable Starters
PG: D'Anthony Melton.......... SG: Devin Booker
C: Deandre Ayton
SF: Mikal Bridges ........... PF: TJ WarrenSuns Reserves
Kelly Oubre, Jr (new) game time decisionHead Coach
The Celtics and Suns meet for the second and final time this season. The Celtics visited the Suns on November 8 and came away with a 116-109 win. The Suns are last in the Western Conference but have won their last 3 games, including a 128-110 victory over the New York Knicks on Monday.
The Celtics have had 3 days off since their loss to the Pistons broke their 8 game win streak. The Celtics are 5th in the East, 3.5 games behind the Raptors, and just half a game behind the Sixers, who are 4th. The Celtics lead the series all time vs the Suns 71-55. The Celtics are 8-2 over their last 10 games while the Suns are 3-7 over their last 10.
While a game against the worst team in the West may not seem all that interesting, these two teams have some history that may make the Celtics get up to play them. Marcus Morris spent 3 seasons with the Suns and has not so pleasant memories of his first team. He has said it was like a slap in the face when they traded him to Detroit, separating him from his twin brother for the first time in their basketball lives. He is less than complimentary to the Suns whenever asked about them. I can imagine that he would very much like to beat them and will have a good game against them.
When these two teams played at the Garden in early 2017, Devin Booker scored 70 points. Only 4 players are left that remember that game but I'm sure they have filled the rest of the team in about it. In the final minutes, Suns coach Earl Watson turned to gimmicks to get him more points with intentional fouls and timeouts in a game that was not on the line. He was criticized for it, especially by the Celtics who didn't like it and didn't care for the raucous postgame locker room celebration.
The Suns just pulled off a trade that sent Trevor Ariza to Washington for Kelly Oubre, Jr and Austin Rivers. Rivers was waived and Oubre is listed as a game time decision. Al Horford will miss his 6th straight game, although he is close to returning. Guerschon Yabusele is out with an ankle sprain. Jaylen Brown is listed as questionable with a bruised hand. He hurt the hand against Dallas in the fall that caused the back injury that kept him out of 3 games earlier.
Marcus Smart vs Devin Booker
The Celtics should know to be aware of Devin Booker after he scored 70 points against the Celtics in 2017. He is averaging 23.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 6.8 assists. He is shooting 44.6% from the floor. He is coming off a 38 point, 7 rebound game against the Knicks. Marcus Smart will need to earn is reputation as a tough and gritty defender to keep Booker in check in this game.
Marcus Morris vs TJ Warren
Warren is averaging 18.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists. He is shooting 51.5% from the field and 44.8% from beyond the arc. Morris has been the Celtics most consistent player and this should be a good matchup on both sides. Honorary Mention
Aron Baynes vs Deandre Ayton
Ayton was the first overall pick in this year's draft and has been playing very well for the Suns. He is averaging 15.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists. He is shooting 58.5% from the floor. He isn't a threat from outside and so Baynes will need to stick with him inside. Keys to the Game 3 Days Off
- Neither team plays on Tuesday night but the Celtics have the advantage of having 3 days off since they last played on Saturday night in Detroit. The Celtics are 6-1 in games where they have at least 2 days off before the game. Their lone loss was against the Raptors on the road early in the season. The Celtics typically play very well when they have a couple days off to rest and prepare. Defense
- Defense is always a key to winning. The Celtics are third in the league with a defensive rating of 102.5. Phoenix is 25th with a defensive rating of 111.5. The Suns are 28th, averaging 103.1 points per game. The Celtics can't let up because the Suns are a bottom team. They need to continue to make defense a priority if they want to continue to win. You can't win without defense.
- The Celtics need to rebound on the offensive end to give themselves extra possessions and to prevent the Suns from getting fast break points. They also have to crash the boards on the defensive end to prevent the Suns from getting tip ins and second chance points. The Celtics are 9th with 47.1 rebounds per game while the Suns are 29th with 40.5 rebounds per game. The Celtics were out-rebounded by the Pistons and allowed Drummond to get 20 rebounds. They can't allow the Ayton to have a big game on the boards. They have to be aggressive in going after every rebound.
- The Celtics need to focus on their game and play hard for 48 minutes. It's a tendency at times to not play hard when they face teams that they expect to beat. However, the Celtics have a target on their backs and every team, even the worst teams, give it their best shot to try to beat the Celtics. They have to come in focused on playing basketball the right way, especially on the defensive end.
- The Celtics are playing at home and they should get a boost from the home crowd. They need to draw energy from the fans and use it to lift their game to the next level. I'm sure the crowd will remember Booker's 70 point game and be ready to cheer the team on to prevent a repeat performance.