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Suns prepare to host the ‘No. 1 team in the NBA right now’

Tonight, the Phoenix Suns (37-26) host the team with the best record in the NBA, the Boston Celtics (48-14) in their first meeting this season.

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Not only do the Celtics have the most wins in the NBA, they are first in average margin of victory (10.9), first in 3-pointers made per game (16.3), first in rebounds (47.2), second in blocks (6.5) and third in points (120.8).

The Celtics are remarkably first in the NBA in offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions) at 121.4 and second in the NBA in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) at 110.3. This gives them far and away the best net rating in the NBA (point differential per 100 possessions) at 11.1. For reference if the season ended right now, the Celtics would rank sixth all-time in both net rating and point differential of any team in NBA history (per StatMuse).

While Boston has currently lost two games in a row, the Suns, who have won two games in a row, have an immense respect for what the Celtics are doing this season.

“Boston is electric, man,” Suns’ star guard Bradley Beal said after practice yesterday. “It’s like, what can’t they do? They have size, they have physicality, skill, talent, versatility. They’re the No. 1-rated offense, top five defensively. So I mean, they’re the elite of the elite. Number one team in the NBA right now.”

Boston’s starting five of Jrue Holiday, Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Kristaps Porzingis have played 554 minutes across 33 games together compared to just 274 minutes in 20 games for the Suns’ ideal starting five of Devin Booker, Bradley Beal, Grayson Allen, Kevin Durant and Jusuf Nurkić. This Celtics’ lineup boasts a 121.5 offensive rating and 109.1 defensive rating.

“They’ve had an incredible year thus far,” Suns’ superstar Kevin Durant said after the team’s 120-113 win over the Raptors Thursday. “Best starting five in the league by far … They got a big lineup with versatile guys up and down their lineup, and they’ve been around each other for a while now. So they understand one another. Adding Jrue was huge and adding Kristaps was huge. We got our work cut out for us, and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Beal further broke down how dangerous their starting five is.

“It starts with Tatum,” Beal said. “He’s always in attack mode, three-level scorer. I think Porzingis is a great addition for them. His ability to be versatile, size and space and shoot over guys. That’s very tough to guard. JB (Brown) has always been a great two-way guy. And then, obviously picking up Jrue and D-White, they’ve been playing at All-Star levels. We got our hands full, but it’s a good test for us. We love where we’re at, mentally and physically, collectively as a team. It’s been great, but we definitely got a good challenge for us.”

Not only do the Celtics make the most 3s in the league, they also take the most. Boston ranks No. 1 in the league with 42.2 3-point attempts per game, while the Suns allow the ninth-most 3-pointers attempted at 36.2.

“We just got to play our brand of ball, move the ball, take shots when they’re there, try to keep the ball in our hands, not turn it over and play physical defense,” Durant said. “Everybody in the league shoots a lot of 3s. I feel like it’s an emphasis in every locker room to get at least 40 3s up a night. Boston may get 60 3s up, 50 3s up some nights because they got guys from one to five that can shoot threes. We had nights where we got a lot of shots up, made a lot of 3s with high efficiency. We got to just be ready to play our game, but it starts on the defensive side.”

In what could be good news for Phoenix, Devin Booker (right ankle sprain) has been upgraded to questionable for tonight’s matchup after missing the last three games. For Boston, Brown (sacroiliac strain) is questionable, while Tatum (right ankle impingement) is probable.

Tonight’s matchup tips off at 6:30 p.m. MST.

Exclusive: Phoenix Suns practice report March 8, 2024

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Brendan Mau is a senior writer covering the Phoenix Suns and more for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on X via @Brendan_Mau



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