Watch It! - Celtics at Suns
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns meet at 9 p.m. tonight at US Airways Center.
The premier matchup of tonight’s game is undoubtedly Rajon Rondo, a four-time All-Star, versus Goran Dragic, an All-Star snub. Rondo has been fantastic over his last four games while Dragic has been great all season.
Boston’s captain has looked like his old self during February. He heads into tonight’s game having averaged 14.5 points per game, 9.3 assists per game and 6.3 rebounds per game during his four contests this month. He has also shot 65.8 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from long range in February.
Dragic, meanwhile, has been Phoenix’s top scorer and passer all season. He’s averaging 20.3 PPG and 6.3 APG this season while shooting the ball well from all over the court.
Both players can be absolutely dynamic at the offensive end. It should be fun to watch these two stars go at it for the first time in more than a year.
Size on the Perimeter
Boston and Phoenix will both be missing their starting shooting guards tonight, as Avery Bradley (ankle) is sidelined for the Celtics and Eric Bledsoe (knee) is out for the Suns. The absence of those two players results in great size on the perimeter for both teams.
The Celtics fill Bradley’s void by sliding the 6-foot-9 Jeff Green over to shooting guard. Gerald Wallace is then inserted into the starting lineup as the team’s small forward. The Suns replace Bledsoe with the 6-foot-8 Gerald Green while starting P.J. Tucker at small forward.
Essentially, both Boston and Phoenix start two small forwards. However, that shouldn’t result in less perimeter play, as both Jeff Green (36.0 percent) and Gerald Green (38.5 percent) can shoot it from long range. Phoenix’s Green hit six 3s en route to 36 points Tuesday night.
Mental Approach Around Deadline
Many NBA players would tell you that today, the day before the trade deadline, is the toughest day of the season. Unless your name is LeBron James or Kevin Durant, there’s a chance that you might not be with the same team come tomorrow.
It’s no secret that the Celtics are in rebuilding mode and that they’re attempting to stockpile assets for an efficient turnaround to championship contention. As a result, rumors are going to fly about Boston’s players, whether they’re true or not.
Boston’s ability to succeed tonight will be very dependent on its players’ ability to block the deadline out of their minds. Tonight’s game will be as mental as it will be physical.
Phoenix Rains 3s
Phoenix may be the most perimeter-oriented team in the NBA. The Suns are second in the league in 3-point attempts per game (25.4), just slightly behind the Rockets (25.8 per game).
The Suns shoot it freely from long range and also shoot it efficiently. Led by Dragic (40.4 percent), Channing Frye (40.1 percent) and Green (38.5 percent), Phoenix makes 37.0 percent of its 3-point attempts.
Boston has been good but not great at defending the 3-point line this season. Celtics opponents have made 35.2 percent of their 3-pointers. Brad Stevens would love to see his team keep the Suns below that mark tonight.
Tough Task for the Suns
While the Celtics are opening up the second half of their season tonight, the Suns are already one game in. They played Tuesday night in Denver and pulled off a 112-107 overtime victory.
Phoenix was happy to head back home with a win in its pocket but it didn’t come without a cost. Dragic was forced to play a game-high 42-plus minutes against the Nuggets. Markieff Morris played more than 41 and Tucker played 37. The team then had to deal with a late night flying back home.
Overtime games and late nights can take a toll, particularly when they arrive on the same day. This is not to say that the Suns will lack energy tonight, but they could certainly experience some fatigue following their busy Tuesday night.