The Boston Celtics bounced back from their only double-digit loss of the season in fine fashion and look to gain steam as they continue a five-game homestand against the Phoenix Suns on Saturday. The homestand opened with a 118-108 setback against the Detroit Pistons, which also represents the Celtics’ worst defensive effort of the season and was their second loss in four contests since a 16-game winning streak.
Boston rediscovered its solid defense and rode a 36-point effort from Kyrie Irving to a 108-97 victory over Philadelphia on Thursday. “It’s a luxury. Not a lot of teams have that,” Celtics forward Al Horford told the media of Irving’s dominance. “His will to win and make those shots when we need them most - it just keeps impressing me game by game.” The Suns have a high-scoring guard of their own in Devin Booker, who is returning to TD Garden for the first time since producing a franchise-record 70 points, albeit in a 130-120 loss to Boston on March 24. Booker had 22 points on 7-of-8 shooting in Wednesday’s 131-107 defeat at Detroit, which dropped Phoenix to 1-2 on its six-game road trip.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FSN Arizona (Phoenix), NBCSN Boston
ABOUT THE SUNS (8-15): Booker was 21-of-40 from the floor - including 4-of-11 from 3-point range - and he made 24 free throws to go along with eight rebounds, six assists and three steals in his monster performance at Boston in the spring. Unfortunately, his team couldn’t stop opponents on the defensive end then and they still struggle to do so, allowing the Pistons to shoot 57.3 percent in the most recent lopsided loss. Forward T.J. Warren will be looking for a bounce-back effort on the other end of the floor after scoring seven points - more than 11 below his average - at Detroit.
ABOUT THE CELTICS (19-4): Horford put forth a solid stat line with 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting, eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks in 34 minutes Thursday night, earning some praise alongside the flashier Irving. “Kyrie is obviously amazing,” Sixers guard J.J. Redick told reporters. “Horford doesn’t get enough credit for how good he is offensively. As good as Kyrie is, Horford is the hub of everything they do.” Rookie Jayson Tatum recorded 15 points for his 11th straight double-digit game and he buried 2-of-3 3-pointers to raise his percentage beyond the arc to 48.6 percent, tied for third in the league entering Friday.
1. Boston leads the NBA in scoring defense (96.8 points per game), while Phoenix is last (115.8).
2. Celtics SG Jaylen Brown is averaging 5.5 points - nearly 10 below his season mark - on 5-of-16 shooting in two games since missing one contest for personal reasons.
3. Suns rookie SF Josh Jackson scored a season-high 20 points in Wednesday’s loss.
PREDICTION: Celtics 118, Suns 104