Thursday, March 30, 2023
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NBA Preview: Phoenix Suns (27-26) at Boston Celtics (37-15)

Devin Booker is expected to be back in the Phoenix lineup soon, but his return may not come in time to help the Suns when they visit the Boston Celtics on Friday night.

Booker has missed nearly six weeks with a groin strain and according to multiple reports, he will be with the Suns for their five-game road trip that begins Friday. Booker left a game against Denver on Christmas and hasn’t played since. ESPN reported that Booker is targeting Tuesday’s road game against the Brooklyn Nets for his return.

Booker is in his eighth season with the Suns. He’s averaging a career-high 27.1 points in 29 games this season, with the Suns going 8-11 during his absence. He also missed five games earlier in the season with hamstring soreness.

Phoenix trailed throughout Wednesday night’s 132-100 home loss to Atlanta. The Suns were 4 of 28 from 3-point range (14.3 percent) and committed 16 turnovers that led to 31 points for the Hawks.

Mikal Bridges scored a team-high 23 points for Phoenix in the loss, while Deandre Ayton added 20 points and nine rebounds. But the Hawks made 19 3-pointers.

Boston, meanwhile, is coming off one of its best offensive games of the season in Wednesday’s 139-96 home victory against the Nets. The Celtics made 26 3-pointers — one shy of matching the franchise record — and led by 49 points in the fourth quarter.

Jayson Tatum (31 points) and Jaylen Brown (26) each made seven 3-pointers. It was the eighth time this season Tatum and Brown each scored at least 25 points in the same game. The Celtics were able to rest their starters in the fourth quarter.

Friday will be the second game between Boston and Phoenix this season. Boston prevailed 125-98 in Phoenix on Dec. 7. The Celtics led by 45 points in the second half.

Josh Okogie led the Suns’ offense in the loss by coming off the bench to score 28 points. Brown and Tatum each tossed in 25 for Boston.

Boston point guard Marcus Smart didn’t play in Wednesday’s victory over Brooklyn. Smart has missed the last five games with a sprained ankle. The Celtics are 2-3 during that five-game stretch but have won their last two outings.

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