Will defense be the theme against Phoenix?

Yesterday, the Celtics pulled off a decisive victory against the Indiana Pacers. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen this level of sustained defensive intensity from the C’s, a key calling card that has been instrumental to the team’s winning ways. The relentless triumvirate of Bradley, Smart and Crowder led the way, and sparked a series of steals and transition baskets that sealed the game.

“We’ve been struggling with that, closing out games,” Smart said (reference). “That was a big point for us tonight was make sure we close out the game. We knew Indiana, what they wanted to do and they were gonna try to push it down our throats and get in the paint and score the ball. We just have to bite our teeth and guard them.”

Onwards, to the Phoenix Suns. Can the Celtics maintain their focus, and close a shaky team out? The Suns struggled mightily this season; they lost 9 of their last 10 games, and stand 13-27 for the season so far. They are tied for 3rd place with the Kings in turnovers per game at 16.6, and commit the 5th highest amount of personal fouls at 21.7 per game. It’s also worth noting that Phoenix surrenders an average of 16 fast break points a game, a mark that is good for second worst in the league.

It’s not hard to imagine what the Suns sound like, when putting all these statistics together. They are a suitable target for Boston’s defensive tendencies, namely an opponent that is on a slump, and could be baited into committing mistakes and giving transition opportunities up.

Let’s not forget the fact that Isaiah Thomas is riding an unbeatable offensive surge right now. He’s averaging 21.6 points this season, but has scored 28, 34 and 35 points in his last three outings. It’s not hard to imagine that his outstanding performance might lead to All-Star candidacy this season.

One might say, things are looking up. Don’t miss tomorrow’s game, as the Celtics take on the Suns at home, 11:30 am AEDT.

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