Sunday, February 22, 2009
2:30 pm ET
US Airways Center (Phoenix, AZ)
The C’s failed to begin the post-All-Star stretch on the right foot, as the surging Utah Jazz fought hard and earned their 90-85 victory over Boston this past Thursday night at EnergySolutions Arena. The worst part of the night for the Celtics was not the loss, however. It was the right knee injury to team backbone Kevin Garnett, who will be out for the next two-to-three weeks with a posterior muscle strain.
Losing Garnett is a tough pill to swallow, but in times like these, you’ve got to maintain a positive mindset. Last year’s squad held a very respectable 7-2 record when Garnett went down with an abdominal strain, which [ironically enough] kept him out of action for roughly three weeks.
Even with that in mind, you can’t help but worry about this Celtic defense, sans “The Big Ticket,” and you certainly can’t help but worry about this KG-less Celtic defense against the high-powered offense of the Phoenix Suns. Why, you ask? Take a look at their recent game logs. Under interim head coach Alvin Gentry, the Suns have gone 3-0 with an astonishing scoring average of 140.7 points per game. Granted, their competition wasn’t exactly the cream of the crop throughout those three games (LA Clippers twice, Oklahoma City), but three straight 140+ point scoring performances is an impressive feat no matter what NBA team it is completed against.
The Suns can still score, make no mistake about it. They are, however, also down one horse. While Garnett is battling through his multi-week knee strain, Suns scoring leader Amare Stoudemire may very well miss the remainder of the regular season after undergoing surgery on his right eye last week. Recovery time for his repaired retina is expected to keep him off the floor for approximately eight weeks, which likely covers the rest of Phoenix’s regular season schedule and could cut into Western Conference Quarterfinal play, should the Suns earn a playoff berth.
Life for our beloved Celtics will be no picnic without Stoudemire in the lineup, however. They’ve still got to deal with Shaquille “The Big Jabbawockee” O’Neal and his friends out on the perimeter, highlighted by two-time MVP Steve Nash and Celtic-killer Jason Richardson.
Win or lose, this should be an entertaining one. Get your matinee popcorn ready.
PG SG SF PF C
PPG: Paul Pierce (20.0)
RPG: Kevin Garnett (8.8)
APG: Rajon Rondo (8.4)
SPG: Rajon Rondo (2.0)
BPG: Kendrick Perkins (1.8)
PG SG SF PF C
PPG: Amare Stoudemire (21.4)
RPG: Shaquille O’Neal (8.9)
APG: Steve Nash (8.9)
SPG: Jason Richardson (1.2)
BPG: Shaquille O’Neal (1.5)
Kevin Garnett (posterior muscle strain – out)
Tony Allen (thumb surgery – out)
Amare Stoudemire (detached retina surgery – out)
Keys to Victory
- Transition Defense
- Timely Closeouts
- Control the Glass
- Attack, Attack, Attack