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3/26 Game Preview: Celtics at Suns

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PHOENIX -- With Kyrie Irving expected to miss at least three weeks, Boston needed someone to step up.

Terry Rozier, come on down.

Rozier, who has made six starts in place of Irving, had the best game of his career on Sunday when he scored 33 points on 12-of-16 shooting and made eight 3-pointers -- one short of the franchise record -- in a 104-92 victory over the Sacramento Kings.

Isaiah Thomas and Antoine Walker share the Celtics' record with nine 3s in a game.

Rozier also had five rebounds and three assists for the Celtics (50-23), who have won the first two games of a four-game trip that continues Monday with a stop in Phoenix against the Suns (19-55).

The Suns are a league-worst 9-27 at home, the only team with fewer than 13 home wins. Only Houston (30) has more road victories than the Celtics (25). Golden State also has 25.

"A lot of credit goes to my teammates and my coaches because they really believe in me every game and they make it happen for me," Rozier told reporters. "My job is easy. All I have to do is try to make the shot."

Irving underwent surgery Saturday to remove a tension wire in his left knee, a procedure expected to keep him out for three-to-six weeks.

In addition to Rozier's big game, the Celtics welcomed the return of guard Jaylen Brown, who had 19 points against Sacramento after missing two weeks with a concussion. Marcus Morris did not play, however, after suffering a sprained right ankle on Friday in Portland.

"We got pretty good looks all night," Boston coach Brad Stevens told reporters. "Everyone played well, but we were really playing with purpose."

Boston is 3 1/2 games behind Eastern Conference leader Toronto and still has a home-and-home series against the Raptors. But with nine games remaining, the Celtics seem all but assured of finishing second in the East.

The Celtics are six games ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and finishing second would guarantee two rounds of home-court advantage should Boston make the second round.

The Suns, who have lost 11 in a row, 21 of 22 and 26 of 28, are one-half game behind Memphis and in last place in the West. That seems fine with them.

The Suns have not come out and said it, but their obvious goal is a top lottery pick in a class that includes dominant big men Deandre Ayton of Arizona and Marvin Bagley III of Duke. Both are freshmen.

Ayton declared for the draft immediately after the Wildcats fell to Buffalo in the first round of the NCAA Tournament two weeks ago. Bagley has not announced a decision.

The team that finishes with the worst record in the league has a 25 percent chance of landing the first pick and a 21.5 percent chance of getting the second pick. It cannot finish below fourth.

The team with the second-worst record has a 19.9 chance at the first pick and an 18.8 chance at the second, and it can finish no lower than fifth. And so on through the 14 lottery teams.

This is the last season, however, in which finishing last is a distinct mathematical benefit. To lessen perceived "tanking," the teams with the three worst records in 2018-19 will each have a 14 percent chance to win the lottery. No. 4 will have a 12.5 percent, No. 5 a 10.5 chance and No. 6 a 9.0.

Phoenix has played without leading scorer Devin Booker (24.9 points per game) for the last four games and second-leading scorer TJ Warren (17.7) for the last three. Neither is expected to play against Boston.

Rookie small forward Josh Jackson, who is getting plenty of playing time, led Phoenix with 18 points in a 105-99 loss in Orlando on Saturday, a game the Suns led early in the fourth quarter. Jackson, the fourth player taken in the 2017 draft, is averaging 20.3 points in his last six games.

"I liked the way we played the whole game," Suns interim coach Jay Triano told reporters. "I liked our energy and our juice. I don't think we played real smart, but I liked our energy and the style with which we played."