Celtics-Suns Preview

The short-handed Boston Celtics have already lost more times on

their current road trip than they did in their first 14 road games.

Avoiding a third straight defeat before they head home won’t be

easy.

That’s because the Phoenix Suns are feeling especially confident

after perhaps their most significant win of the season, and they’ll

try to complete a season sweep of the Celtics on Wednesday

night.

An impressive 86-77 win at Orlando on Christmas Day without Paul

Pierce improved the Celtics to 13-1 on the road, but they found a

pair of unexpected hurdles on the West Coast leg of their trip.

After blowing a three-point lead in the final 10 seconds and

losing 92-90 on a buzzer-beater to the Los Angeles Clippers on

Sunday night, the Celtics coughed up a 16-point first-quarter lead

in a 103-99 defeat to lowly Golden State on Monday.

“Obviously, (Sunday) was frustrating for us and to get in

basically the same situation (Monday) is not good,” guard Ray Allen

said. “We have to shore it up.”

The Celtics (23-7) have certainly been missing Pierce, who is

recovering from a knee infection and will not return until Saturday

at the earliest.

Rajon Rondo led the way with 30 points and 15 assists while

Allen added 24 points, but Boston’s bench matched a season low with

15 points against the fast-paced Warriors.

The team’s depth may have taken another hit Monday after forward

Glen Davis left the game with an ankle injury. His status is

unclear.

Boston, accustomed to a defensive style while allowing an

NBA-low 91.9 points per game, may face another up-tempo game

against the Suns, who lead the league by averaging 109.8

points.

Before facing the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night, Phoenix

(20-12) had lost three of four, including its first two home

defeats. But the Suns erased any bad feelings with a 118-103 win

over the reigning NBA champions.

“Big win for us definitely,” said forward Amare Stoudemire, who

had 26 points. “Coming off a couple of tough losses, (Monday) was a

big momentum change and a good confidence builder for us.”

While Steve Nash had 16 points and 13 assists for his 18th

double-double as the Suns topped 115 points for the 13th time, it

was Phoenix’s play at the other end of the floor that caught coach

Alvin Gentry’s attention.

Gentry had been upset after the Suns allowed a season-high in

points in a 132-127 loss at Golden State on Saturday, but his team

held the Lakers to 43.5 percent shooting.

“I thought we played with so much energy and did a great job

defensively,” Gentry said.

Another key for Phoenix was its bench play, as Jared Dudley had

19 points and seven rebounds to lead a group of reserves that

totaled 52 points. Goran Dragic added 14 points while Leandro

Barbosa had 11.

“Our bench did about the best job they have done all year,”

Gentry said.

Jason Richardson led the way with 34 points as the starters

carried Phoenix to a 110-103 win at Boston on Nov. 6. The Suns have

a chance to return the favor after the Celtics swept the 2008-09

season series.