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Game 59: Celtics vs. Suns

3/2/2011

at TD Garden, 7:30 p.m. | CSN, WEEI (850 AM)

PAYNE'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH

  • Garnett vs. Frye: Don't be shocked if tempers flare between Kevin Garnett and Channing Frye tonight, in light of the recent history between them. Late in the fourth quarter of the Celtics' 88-71 loss to the Suns back in January, Garnett fouled Frye on a 3-point field goal attempt, but also appeared to deliver a shot below Frye's belt. Frye took exception after briefly crumpling to the floor, the two exchanged words, a small scrum ensued, and Garnett was eventually ejected. Will conflict erupt between the pair once again tonight?

  • Rondo vs. Nash: Rajon Rondo and Steve Nash currently rank first and second in the NBA in assists per game this season, respectively. While Rondo's head-to-head matchups with Nash in the past haven't garnered as much attention as his duels with the likes of Chris Paul, Deron Williams, or Derrick Rose, Nash still serves as one of Rondo's tougher covers. Nash has averaged at least 13 points and seven assists in each of the last three seasons against Boston, including a double-double in points and assists (13 points, 10 assists) during the 2009-10 campaign. In the first meeting between these two clubs this season, Nash finished with 13 points and 10 assists to Rondo's seven points and six assists.

  • Offensively inclined: The Suns have yet to abandon the run-and-gun model employed by former head coach (and current New York Knicks helmsman) Mike D'Antoni, as they currently rank sixth in the NBA in offensive efficiency (107.7 points per 100 possessions). But Phoenix also hasn't quite gotten its act together on the defensive end, either, as their defensive rating (106.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) currently ranks them 22nd in the league. The Suns are one of those teams that prefer to run and score in transition, but doesn't like it when opposing teams return the favor. The Celtics have been doing an awful lot of running lately, as they averaged 17.7 fast-break points per game over their recent four-game Western Conference road swing. Why slow down now?

GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)

Channing Frye's second straight game-winning shot kept the Phoenix Suns surging toward playoff position in the Western Conference.

Frye was also a major factor in the Suns' first meeting of the season with the Boston Celtics -- but for an entirely different reason than timely offense.

Frye and the Suns head to TD Garden for Wednesday night's rematch of their physical January victory over the Celtics -- their third straight win in the series.

After hitting a jumper as time expired to beat Indiana 110-108 in overtime Sunday, Frye stepped up again Monday in a thrilling 104-103 OT win over New Jersey. His 3-pointer with 6.6 seconds remaining in the extra period lifted Phoenix to its season-best fifth road victory in a row.

"This is extremely humbling," he said. "To be honest I'm not really nervous about the last-second shot. We got a win that we really needed. We just need to play better at the end of the games."

Phoenix, though, has played well enough to win 11 of 14 and move into contention for a playoff berth. The Suns have won four in a row overall -- one shy of tying their season high -- and extended their longest road win streak of the season to five Sunday.

Read the full preview HERE.