Game Preview: Celtics at Suns
BOSTON – Two teams that were active before Thursday’s trade deadline will meet at 9 p.m. tonight in the US Airways Center. The Boston Celtics (28-26), who made one trade, and the Phoenix Suns (18-37), who were involved in two trades, are set to close out their season series.
Both teams must believe that they are in better position to win games today than they were just a couple of days ago. The Celtics and Suns were both able to add talent to their rosters while giving up players who had limited roles on their teams.
The Celtics made an impressive swap for guard Jordan Crawford, who is expected to be available tonight. He was acquired from the Washington Wizards in exchange for Leandro Barbosa, who is out for the season with a torn ACL, and Jason Collins. Crawford is a talented scorer who has averaged 13.4 points per game during his three-year career.
Phoenix was involved in two deals, including one that caught the league off guard. The Suns acquired Marcus Morris from the Houston Rockets as part of the three-team trade that sent the No. 5 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Thomas Robinson, to Houston from Sacramento.
Morris is a 6-foot-9 forward who averaged 8.6 PPG and 4.1 RPG in 54 games with the Rockets this season. He is now reunited with his twin brother, Markieff, who was drafted by the Suns in 2011.
Trades may be the talk of each team’s locker room, but the Celtics and Suns are both aiming to jump back into the win column. Boston has lost two games in a row and Phoenix has lost seven of its last 10 games, including a 10-point loss to the Warriors on Wednesday.
The C’s are also coming off of a double-digit loss on Wednesday night at the hands of the Lakers. Los Angeles controlled that matchup with Boston and wound up grabbing a 113-99 victory.
That defeat marked the Celtics’ second consecutive loss to open their season-long, five-game road trip. With the trade deadline now in the rearview mirror, Boston will look to get back on track with Crawford on board.
Small Versus Big
In acquiring Crawford, the Celtics were forced to unload Jason Collins. Collins was the primary backup for Kevin Garnett at the center position and his absence will now leave the C’s with a shortage of bigs.
Boston now has only four true big men in Garnett, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox and rookie Fab Melo. As a result, they’re likely going to need to play quite a bit of small ball with Jeff Green and Paul Pierce seeing minutes at the power forward position.
Going that route tonight could be an issue for the C’s, as the Suns have a wide array of big men. Their starting frontcourt of Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola is solid, and they now have both Morris brothers and a rejuvenated Jermaine O’Neal on the bench. That’s a lot of bigs against Boston’s presumed small lineup.
The Celtics aren’t bringing bodies in just to fill out the roster. These guys need to play, and they will.
Crawford is one of three new roster additions who will see minutes on the floor, along with recent signee Terrence Williams and rookie Fab Melo, who was called up from the Development League prior to the All-Star break. Boston needs Crawford and Williams to learn the team’s system and execute in that system as quickly as possible. Melo already knows the system, but he must execute as well when his name is called. The ability of those three players to contribute is very important to the rest of Boston’s season.
Back to the Roots
Wednesday’s loss to the Lakers arrived because Boston’s defense was nonexistent. Los Angeles scored 113 points on 50.6 percent shooting from the floor. Seven of the nine Lakers players who appeared in the game scored in double-figures.
That is not the identity of the Boston Celtics. They live and die by their defense. On Wednesday, they died. Now they must return to their roots tonight and get back to living by that defense.