Phoenix Suns GM James Jones stresses importance of Celtics matchup

Dec 7, 2022, 5:41 PM

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns passes the ball against the Boston Celtics during the second ha...

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns passes the ball against the Boston Celtics during the second half of a game at TD Garden on December 31, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

(Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

One of the marquee regular season matchups of the year is set for Wednesday night at Footprint Center as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference takes on the top seed in the east on national television.

The Phoenix Suns host the Boston Celtics on ESPN.

Boston is the league leader in net rating at 8.5 with Phoenix in second at 7.2. The two teams are also Nos. 1 and 2 in offensive rating, with the Celtics ahead.

Suns president of basketball operations and general manager James Jones explained the value Wednesday’s game has for his team at this juncture in the NBA calendar.

“You need these games, I don’t think you can play lower level games all year long and think you will be ready for the playoffs,” Jones told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Wednesday.

“So when people say like, ‘You just have to be ready for the playoffs and just get to the playoffs,’ you need tests along the way. You need really high-level games. You need to be put out in front and challenged and so I think tonight will be that for us.”

The Suns could be getting a major reinforcement, as Chris Paul is expected to return, according to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report.

Jones said Paul, who has missed 14 games (heel), will be a game-time decision but noted that forward Torrey Craig will be back after a three-game absence.

With Phoenix’s injuries piling up early in the season — Jones said Cam Johnson is progressing and rehabbing after knee surgery — the GM said the Suns have had to try different rotations out of necessity while other teams experiment, which could be a plus down the stretch.

“I do think it’s been beneficial for us because so many times throughout the course of the year, you’re trying to force rotations and force experimentation,” Jones said. “Well, for us, circumstances forced us to come out and look at our team differently and ask guys to step up and they’ve done a valiant job doing it.”

The Suns are fresh off a back-to-back split with a blowout win over the San Antonio Spurs and a 130-111 defeat vs. the Dallas Mavericks. Minus the opening quarter in Dallas when Phoenix was outscored 33-15, Jones felt his squad played well and did not feel extra pressure playing the Mavs with Paul and Craig out.

“I think our rotation has been tested since the beginning of the season,” Jones said. “Without Chris, it’s been stressed. But I don’t think the Dallas game put any more stress on us.”

The Suns will continue to get tested with the toughest remaining schedule in the NBA based on winning percentage at .519.

It starts with the Celtics Wednesday at 8 p.m. Tune in on Arizona Sports 98.7, the Arizona Sports app and 

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