Tip: 7:30 pm Court: TD Garden Watch it: CSN Hear it: WEEI
Referees: Greg Willard, Brent Barnaky, James Williams
The Celtics and Suns split the season series last year, with each team winning on its own floor.
Get it to: Ray Allen
Assuming Rajon Rondo is out tonight, we'll need someone to pick up the scoring load (how odd does that sound?) Ray has taken a back seat as the Celtics rode Rondo as the primary weapon with Pierce taking a bunch of shots to work himself back into shape. If Rondo is out, Ray will have to get a LOT more touches. I feel like he should be able to shake Jared Dudley and get free.
Gotta stop: Steve Nash
I wanted to break my habit of opposing point guards here, but I can't. Not with Nash. He's averaging 18.1 points and 11.1 rebounds in his last 10 games, so he can still be pretty damn effective. If Avery Bradley does get the start, then it's up to him to use his physical gifts and ability to defend to hound Nash the entire length of the floor. Do NOT let them get into any offensive rhythm.
I've said a lot about Avery Bradley, but his defense on Nash is THE reason why he'd start if Rondo can't go.
The Wild Card: Marcin Gortat
He's putting up 14 and 9 for the season and 15.6/10.2 over his last 10.. He's big, he'll crash the boards, he'll bring energy, and he'll hit from mid-range. This will be a challenge for Jermaine O'Neal. If Gortat is getting early offensive boards and second chance points, this could be a long night.
How we see it goin' down
Scenario 1: Without Rajon Rondo
If Rondo does indeed sit, the Celtics offense will struggle even more than it has in the past. Will Avery Bradley be able to feed Ray, KG and Pierce in any kind of effective manner?
The defense, however, may lead to some easy opportunities that will keep the game close. However, losing their best player at this time will be too much to handle. Without Rondo, the C's defense keeps it close, but not close enough, and the C's lose 91-85.
Scenario 2: With Rajon Rondo
Rondo will account for at least 10 additional points. The Suns allow 96.4 ppg, and that's about where the C's will land with Rondo running the show and getting to the basket. With fewer turnovers and a different game flow, the C's pull out a win even with a Rondo that's not 100%, 97-90.