GAME PREVIEW (via STATS LLC)
Just days after getting traded away, Isaiah Thomas is headed back to Phoenix.
Thomas could be looking to make a statement as his Boston Celtics visit the slumping Suns, who try to avoid an eighth loss in nine games Monday night.
Phoenix (29-27) surprised some when it acquired Thomas in a sign-and-trade with Sacramento back in July with fellow point guards Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic already on board. In the end general manager Ryan McDonough decided to blow things up. In addition to shipping Dragic to Miami, the Suns traded Thomas to Boston (20-33) in exchange for Marcus Thornton and a 2016 first-round draft pick.
"I was surprised, but at the same time I was anxious and excited," Thomas told the Celtics' official website. "I was only there for a little while, so it's not going to be that awkward. But it's going to be different playing against the guys I just practiced with (last week), so I'm excited and hopefully we can get a win."
Thomas was averaging 15.2 points with Phoenix, and he scored 21 off the bench in his Celtics debut before picking up two technical fouls and getting ejected with 5:03 to go in regulation in Sunday's 118-111 overtime defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers. Fellow reserve Jae Crowder matched a career high with 22 points and Avery Bradley added 20, but it wasn't enough as Boston managed five points on 2-of-12 shooting in OT.
"Obviously, you need scorers on the floor late in the game," said coach Brad Stevens, whose team dropped to 0-2 on a three-game trek. "We have to do a better job of handling our emotions."
The reeling Suns are still looking for their moves to pay off after opening the season's second half with back-to-back defeats, 111-109 at Minnesota on Friday and 112-107 at Chicago on Saturday. Brandon Knight, acquired from Milwaukee in yet another deadline deal, finished with 13 points and five assists in his team debut.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH (via Chris Forsberg)
• Seeing old friends: Not only is Thomas going back to play the team he departed just four days ago, but Boston will get to see old friends Marcus Thornton and Brandan Wright. Throw Shavlik Randolph in that mix as well. Needless to say, there will be a bunch of guys on the court with motivation against their former employers.
• Defense key for Boston: The Suns have been slumping lately, but they still stand seventh in offensive rating and are a high-efficiency team shooting the ball. The Celtics struggled to slow Jeremy Lin and a head-shaking Lakers offense on Sunday night and Boston needs to work harder to generate consistent stops instead of letting the opposition get into a rhythm.
• Eyes on frontcourt: The Celtics remain shorthanded up front after losing Jared Sullinger (foot) for the season and with Kelly Olynyk (ankle) not expected back until later in the week. There's a chance for someone to step up here -- and Jae Crowder has taken advantage of minutes at the 4 -- but Boston could use another pure big, like recently acquired Jonas Jerebko to emerge as a consistent bench presence and help ease Boston's size deficiency.