The Boston Celtics (19-35, 8-18 away) visit the Phoenix Suns (31-21, 17-9 home) on Wednesday night at the US Airways Center (9 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:
STARING AT THE SUNS: Phoenix, under the guidance of former Celtics assistant general manager Ryan McDonough and first-year coach Jeff Hornacek, are the feel-good story of the NBA season. The Suns, expected to be a basement dweller, sit sixth in the Western Conference while exceeding almost all expectations. The Suns rank eighth in the NBA in offensive efficiency and average 105.1 points per game (fifth best in the league). Phoenix is not a great rebounding team and is among the worst in assist-to-turnover ratio, but they play at a breakneck pace, shoot a ton of 3-pointers, and are among the top 10 teams in field goal percentage, forcing opponents to try to keep up with their output.
DEFENSE IN FOCUS: The Celtics hovered around the top 10 in defensive efficiency at the start of the season, but slipped a bit during their struggles in January. Boston currently sits at 15th overall in defensive efficiency while allowing 103.2 points per 100 possessions. Stevens noted Tuesday as the team reconvened in Phoenix that seeing if his team can shuffle back up a few spots over the final two months is one of his primary goals. They'll get a stiff test out of the gates with Phoenix's offense.
LOOSE BALLS: The Suns emerged with an overtime victory on Tuesday in Denver, while the Celtics have have been idle since last Wednesday's loss to the Spurs in Boston. ... This is the first of two meetings between the teams this season and the Suns visit Boston next month. ... The Celtics will be without Avery Bradley (ankle) and Vitor Faverani (knee) as neither is traveling on this four-game west-coast trip. ... Gerald Wallace will start again in place of Bradley.