The top sides in the Eastern and Western Conferences meet when the Boston Celtics face a huge test against the Phoenix Suns.
Joe Mazzulla has led the Celtics to a league-best record in his rookie season as a coach, but they face a difficult trip to the side that topped the standings last term.
The Suns had a slow start but they’ve recovered to put themselves on course for consecutive top-seed finishes in the West with a strong run, including a brilliant home record.
However, the Suns still trail some way behind the Celtics in the overall standings. Will their good record at the Footprint Center suffer as the league’s form side come to town?
The Phoenix Suns have an impressive 12-2 record at their own court this season, picking up more home wins than any side in the league heading into Wednesday’s matches. They’ve put together a 16-8 record overall, meaning – like many of the preseason contenders – they’ve struggled on the road.
The Suns have a 4-6 away record this term and they’ve been carried by their form at their own arena. While the Celtics have a similarly strong record at TD Garden, they’ve also excelled on the road this season and that could be a problem for the Suns.
The Celtics are a couple of games clear at the top of the league and it’s only close thanks to a strong start from Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Celtics have won 20 of their first 25 games for a .800 start, while they’ve made a red-hot start offensively with an incredible 120.6 points- per-game record.
Boston have cooled slightly on the road, but their 115-point average on their travels is still better than over half the league manages at home.
They rank fifth in points per away game and their 9-3 away record is the best in the league by a comfortable distance.
Last season’s beaten NBA Finalists have picked up where they left off at the end of the last regular season, with Ime Udoka’s departure from the bench barely impacting their record.
The Suns have one of the best defensive ratings in the league, but recent displays have seen them ship plenty of points. They head into this huge clash on the back of a 130-111 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, while they’ve conceded 112+ points in five of their last six games.
The red-hot Celtics can pry more holes in this Suns' defence and while the visitors aren’t excelling defensively, they’ve rarely needed to in order to win games. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are thriving under Mazzulla and the pair will cause all kinds of problems for the Suns.
Given the Suns’ recent defensive efforts, this could be a good night for the best duo in the league right now.
However, the Celtics have slipped down the defensive standings themselves this term, with Mazzulla’s side looking more adventurous than Udoka’s. Given that, over 231.5 points is worth considering at 10/11.
The hosts head into this one without Chris Paul, while Cam Thomas remains a long-term absentee and Jae Crowder is still away from the team. The Suns came into the season with one of the strongest starting lineups in the league, but with a couple of gaps to fill they could struggle against the current leaders.
There’s every chance this is an early look at this season’s NBA Finals, so the Celtics will want to lay down a marker in this trip. Boston are the slight favourites, starting the game at 10/11 with a -1.5 handicap on the spread.
Not only have the Celtics been winning of late, but they’ve also been winning games comfortably. They’ve covered the spread in six of the last seven occasions they’ve started as favourites, so look to them to come away from Phoenix with a win and a decent cushion between them and the Suns.
With the hosts under strength and looking vulnerable, it’s hard to see them matching up to a Celtics side at the top of their game.