Extra Pass: Best of the East vs. best of the West

Published December 7, 2022, 3:00 PMPolo Bustamante

The Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns, the top two teams in their respective conferences, meet tomorrow on NBA TV Philippines.

What’s up with the Boston Celtics?

The Boston Celtics are the best team in the league, and it’s not even close. The second-best team in the NBA is a full two games behind the Celtics who only have five losses in 25 games. In their last 20 games, the Celtics have only lost thrice, and have ripped off a nine-game winning streak as well as a five-game winning run during that stretch.

While their defense isn’t at the lockdown level it was last season (112.6 DRTG), their offense is operating at a historic level (120.7 ORTG, on track to be the best in the history of the NBA). Because of that, their net rating is a plus-8.1 for the season. 

Their last game against the Toronto Raptors was a prime example of how destructive their offense can be. The Celtics were down by as much as 10 points in the second quarter against a tough Raptors defense. Boston unleashed a 35-point bomb against the Raptors that gave them a double-digit lead heading into the fourth.

Jayson Tatum played at an MVP level once again, scoring 15 of his 31 points in the third quarter kick to lead the team. He was backed up by his partner, Jaylen Brown, who finished with 22 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists.

With these two leading the way, the Celtics’ offense is humming. But it’s not just the Jay & Jay show in Boston. Marcus Smart has turned into a reliable point guard this season, leading the team in assists (7.2 APG). They’re also getting contributions from across the board. Against the Raptors, Luke Kornet and Blake Griffin scored in double digits. The Celtics are looking unstoppable right now.

What’s up with the Phoenix Suns?

If the Celtics are the best in the league, the Suns are the best in the West. Though not by much. They’re currently at 16-8 and hold a half-game lead over the surging New Orleans Pelicans. For a while, they looked like the clear-cut best in their conference, winning six straight games. But they’re 1-2 in their last three, allowing other teams to creep up on them.

What’s going well for the Suns though is that even without Chris Paul, they’re still playing like an elite team. They’re behind only the Celtics in terms of scoring per 100 possessions and still maintain a top-10 defense in the league. Because of that, they’re second in net rating behind only—you guessed it—Boston.

For them to be able to beat the Celtics, they can’t have games like their recent loss against the Houston Rockets where they allowed a young team to score 122 points on nearly 50 percent shooting. Devin Booker also can’t have a game like in their last loss against the Dallas Mavericks where he managed only 11 points on 30 percent shooting.

Phoenix has to play crisp, mistake-free basketball from start to finish to take down the surging Celtics. This is already a tall task without Paul who is still sidelined with an injury.

Storyline to watch out for

This will be a battle of the Kobe Bryant heir-apparents and two top MVP candidates this season.

On one end is Booker who’s 10th in scoring this season with 28.4 points per game. More than the points, he’s been relied on to create for the rest of the team with Paul out and he’s dished out 5.9 assists per game this season as well.

On the other end of the spectrum is Tatum. He’s third in the league in scoring at 30.8 points per game. He’s also taken on additional playmaking duties, racking up 4.2 dimes per game.

These two are masters of the midrange just like Bryant. Booker is scoring 52 percent on his shots inside the arc while Tatum is even better at 57 percent. It will be interesting to watch these two put their respective defenders in the torture chamber and see who can rack up the most points in this game. 


If there’s one team in the league primed to beat the Celtics during this torrid run they’re on, it’s the Suns. Offensively, Phoenix can keep up with Boston. Defensively, the Suns have a clear advantage when looking at the stats.

The key players in this game will be Mikal Bridges and DeAndre Ayton. If Bridges can lock up Tatum and Ayton can stop the drives of the Celtics, the Suns can stifle the league’s best offense and pull out an all-important win.

Where to watch

Watch the two best teams in the NBA slug it out live at 11:00 AM on NBA TV Philippines and NBA League Pass.