The Celtics Continue Tough Road Trip in Phoenix

Boston Celtics (35-10) at Phoenix Suns (20-24)
Friday, January 28
10:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #46, Road Game #21
Radio:  WEEI, KTAR
US Airways Center
Referees:  Steve Javie, Bennie Adams,  Brent Barnacky 
After playing in Portland last night, the Celtics continue their road trip in Phoenix.  The Celtics are the more talented and the deeper team, but they are at a disadvantage because of the travel and playing in back to back games.

Last season, the Suns won the series over the Celtics 2-0.  Kevin Garnett scored 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds in his only game against the Suns last season.  Ray Allen averaged 15.5 points per game while Rajon Rondo added 13.5 points and 9.5 assists per game. Amar’e Stoudemire led the Suns with an average of 24.0 points per game last season against the Celtics while Steve Nash added 13.5 points and 10.0 assists in the two contests.

Shaq is expected to come back tonight against his old team and should start with Perk coming off the bench once again.  Pierce left the game last night with what has been described as a knee/ankle/thigh bruise/injury.  He is listed as a game time decision.  The Celtics may decide to sit him out in this one, even if it isn't serious in order to have him 100% for Sunday.  Or, knowing that Pierce is a warrior, he may insist on playing anyway.  

The Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10 games and 13-7 on the road while the Suns are 6-4 in their last 10 and 11-10 at home.  The Suns have lost 3 in a row and you know that they will be motivated to end their losing streak there.  The Celtics are coming off a win in their first game on the road trip and would love to continue the trip with another win in this one and go into Sunday's game vs the Lakers on a winning note. 

Probable Starting Lineup
PG: Rajon Rondo  10.5 PPG,  12.9 APG  2.5 SPG
SG:  Ray Allen  17.3 PPG,  3.1 APG, .453 3P%

C: Shaquille O'Neal  9.9  PPG 4.9 RPG 1.1 BPG
SF:   Paul Pierce   19.1 PPG,  5.2 RPG, 3.3 APG
PF:   Kevin Garnett   15.1 PPG,  8.9 RPG, 0.7 BPG

Boston Bench Mob
Marquis Daniels
Glen Davis
Luke Harangody
Nate Robinson
Von Wafer

Jermaine O'Neal (knee)  out
Delonte West (wrist)  out
Shaquille O'Neal (hip) day to day
Paul Pierce (knee/ankle/something)  game time decision

Avery Bradley

Probable Starting Lineup
PG:  Steve Nash  17.3 PPG  11.0 APG  0.6 SPG  
SG: Vince Carter   15.4 PPG  2.5 APG  .417 3P%

C: Robin Lopez   7.3 PPG  3.5 RPG  0.7 BPG
SF: Grant Hill  14.5 PPG  4.9  RPG 2.4 APG    
PF: Channing Frye  11.5 PPG 6.0 RPG  1.0 BPG

Suns Reserves
Jared Dudley
Marcin Gortat
Goran Dragic
Hakim Warrick
Josh Childress
Mickael Pietrus
Garrett Siler

Ganai Lawal (knee)  out  

Key Matchups
Rajon Rondo vs Steve Nash
Rondo usually gets up for battles with the top PG's and now he gets a chance to show what he can do against  the 2 time MVP Steve Nash.  He should have a speed advantage over Nash, but he will have to work on the defensive end as Nash can burn you from anywhere on the floor if you give him a step.  Rondo needs to be aggressive and set the tempo for the game.

Ray Allen vs Vince Carter
Ray has been shooting the ball very well and is quickly closing in on Reggie Miller's 3 point record.   Vince Carter has never been known for his defense and unless he has been invigorated by the trade to Phoenix and their weather, Ray should get more than his share of open shots in this game.

Honorable Mention
Shaquille O'Neal vs Robin Lopez
Lopez is a good young center but Shaq can still teach him a few things.  And when Shaq is done, Perk can teach him a few more.

Keys to the Game
Defense - This is the key to every win this season and to a championship as well.   If they try to play defense in spurts in this game they will probably lose because the Suns can put points up in a hurry if you let down your guard.  The Celtics need to especially guard the perimeter as the Suns are a dangerous 3 point shooting team.

Ball Movement -  The Celtics need to move the ball and find the open man in order to stretch the Suns weak defenses.  They also need to try to get the ball into the paint and not just settle for jumpers.  If they get the ball into the post they will be able to score, draw the foul or kick out for an open jumper.  Hero ball doesn't win games, team ball does.

Crash the Boards
- The Celtics must make an effort to grab rebounds, especially on the offensive end, in this game.   By grabbing offensive rebounds it will prevent the Suns from getting out on the break.     Rebounding is mostly desire and effort and the team that wants it most will win the rebounding battle.  They allowed the Blazers to get way too many offensive rebounds and tip ins and second chance points.

Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics must play hard for 48 minutes.   They can't let up if they get a lead and they can't come out flat and play catch up the rest of the game.  The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team and attack from start to finish.  

Protect the Basketball -  The Celtics turned the ball over 21 times last night for 22 Blazer points and that is with the Blazers struggling on offense.  Rondo turned it over an uncharacteristic 6 times.  The Celtics have got to focus a little better and take better care of the ball.  With the Suns fast break and 3 point shooters, turnovers could be the difference between a win and a loss in this one.  

It would be easy to overlook the Suns in anticipation of their big rematch vs the Lakers on Sunday.  But every game counts and the Celtics must focus on winning this game.  They have to come in focused on this game and do what it takes to win this one.  They can't afford to overlook a team with Nash at the point. 

Official Report
Steve Javie
Steve Javie has been officiating games since the 1986-87 season and has officiated over 1,300+ regular season games, 190+ play-off games, and 18 NBA Finals games. He has refereed in the Finals every year since 1995. He is one of the more respected referees in the league by most fans but he is not without controversy. He was fined for telling Pat Riley “It‘s giving us absolute delight to watch you and your team die.”   He also isn't very well liked in Portland after tossing their broadcaster, Mike Rice, from a game. He was also once threatened by Sheed when he played in Portland. Javie's career was in jeopardy when he missed last year's playoffs with knee problems. He joins players like Wally Sczcerbiak, Jermaine O'Neal,  Kobe Bryant and Brandon Roy who have knees that are reportedly bone on bone. The Celtics are 2-0 this season and 7-3 in their last 10 with Javie calling the games. Javie's home W/L record is 18-10 this season.   Javie is one of the better and more respected refs in the league. 

Bennie Adams
This is Adams' 11th season in the NBA. Before he started in the NBA he had 3 years of college basketball officiating experience as well as 10 years of high school basketball experience in Louisiana. Adams tends to be inconsistent especially on charge/block calls. He is also one of the referees that has caused Tommy Heinsohn to go ballistic in a game yelling at the top of his lungs "GO BACK TO YOUR MOMMA BENNIE ADAMS!!!" The Celtics are 1-1 this season with Adams as a ref, both games being rather poorly officiated. They are 7-3 in the last 10 games called by Adams. His Home W/L record this season is 24/15.

Brent Barnacky
This is Barnacky's first season in the NBA. He worked 10 years as a college ref and also worked games in the WNBA and NBDL before coming to the NBA. The Celtics are 1-0 with Barnacky this season. His home W/L record this season is 4-5.


Fatigue and Jet Lag  
The Celtics played the previous night with Rondo playing 40 minutes and the other starters other than Semih in the upper 30's.   They also had to fly from Portland to Phoenix after the game, losing an hour by going backwards across a time zone.  They have to overcome the fatigue and travel lag with focus on getting the win.