New Look Celtics Host Suns at the Garden

Phoenix Suns (31-27) at Boston Celtics (43-15)
Wednesday, March 2
7:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #59, Home Game #31
TV:  CSN-NE, TheScore, KUTP, NBA-LP 757
Radio:  WEEI, KTAR
TD Garden
Referees:  Tom Washington, Brian Forte, Eric Lewis 

The Celtics are home after a successful but difficult road trip.  They went 3-1 on the trip with the only loss an undermanned game in Denver after learning their teammates had been traded.   This will be the home crowd's first look at Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic and possibly Troy Murphy as well. 

The Suns have won 3 straight games vs the Celtics which is the longest active win streak against them by one opponent.  They are 4-3 against the Celtics in the Big 3 era, joining the Orlando Magic as the only teams with winning records against them since 2007. 

The Celtics lost the first game this season in Phoenix.  It was the second of a back to back set and they didn't get into their hotel until 4:30 in the morning that day.  Both teams had Tuesday off and both are coming off a win on Monday. 

While there isn't an actual rivalry between 'these two teams they will forever be linked by Game 5 of the 1976 Finals when Boston won a very memorable 3 overtime game in Boston 128-126.  It was an instant classic and will always come up in conversations on the best playoff games ever.

The Celtics are still trying to work in the new players and come to grips with the loss of their teammates.   They are back home now and that should make it a little easier.   The first game home after a road trip is always tough, though.  The Celtics should be looking to avenge their earlier loss to the Suns and hopefully that extra motivation along with the home crowd boost should help the Celtics come out on top in this one.

Probable Starting Lineup
PG: Rajon Rondo 10.7 PPG 12.1 APG 2.3 SPG
SG:  Ray Allen 17.3 PPG 2.8 APG .452 3P%

C: Nenad Krstic 7.6 PPG 4.4 RPG 0.4 BPG
SF:   Paul Pierce 18.9 PPG 5.0 RPG 3.2 APG
PF:   Kevin Garnett 15.1 PPG 9.2 RPG 0.8 BPG

Boston Bench Mob
Glen Davis
Von Wafer
Avery Bradley
Jeff Green
Chris Johnson

Jermaine O'Neal (knee)  out
Delonte West (ankle)  day to day
Shaquille O'Neal (hip) day to day

Troy Murphy

Probable Starting Lineup
PG:  Steve Nash  16.4 PPG  11.4 APG  0.7 SPG   
SG: Vince Carter   14.2 PPG  2.2 APG  .360 3P%

C: Robin Lopez   7.9 PPG  3.6 RPG  0.7 BPG
SF: Grant Hill  13.8 PPG  4.6 RPG 2.5 APG   
PF: Channing Frye  12.3 PPG 6.5 RPG  1.0 BPG 

Suns Reserves
Jared Dudley
Marcin Gortat
Zabian Dowdell
Hakim Warrick
Josh Childress
Mickael Pietrus
Aaron Brooks

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. 

Kevin Garnett vs Channing Frye
In the first meeting between these two teams, Frye did a great acting job when KG hit him below the belt, falling to the floor in agony before jumping up a second later and going at KG.  For his efforts, KG was ejected from the game so this time it's personal.  I'm expecting KG to have an extra chip on his shoulder to win this one. 

Honorable Mention
Glen Davis vs Marcin Gortat
In the last game Gortat was the player of the game for the Suns with 19 points and 17 rebounds off the bench.   Big Baby has to work on defense to prevent Gortat from having another career game in this one. 

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. 

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.  

Official Report  
Tom Washington
Washington has officiated over 855+ regular season games and 55+ play-off games. The Celtics are 3-0 this season and 7-3 over their last 10 games with Washington calling the game. The Suns are 6-4 in their last 10 with Washington as a ref. His home W/L record this season is 26-22.

Brian Forte
This is Forte's third year in the league. He spent several years as a college ref before coming to the NBA. The Celtics are 1-1 this season with Forte on the court and 8-2 over their last 10 games. He has only called 6 games for the Suns and they are 4-2 in those games. His home W/L record this season is 25-16.

Eric Lewis
This is Lewis' sixth season as an NBA official. He has worked for the NBA-D league during 3 seasons, 2 seasons in the USBL, 8 years in the NCAA, and officiated in Florida high school for 8 years before making it to the NBA. The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 and 1-1 so far this season with Lewis as a ref. The Suns are 8-2 with Lewis over their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 26-20.

Home Court and Focus
The Celtics are finally back home and hopefully the home crowd can give them a lift to overcome the let down after a road trip.  They have to focus and stay aggressive throughout the game.