Game 46: Celtics (35-10) at Suns (20-24)

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PHOENIX — After sparring with the Trail Blazers last night, the Celtics continue their West Coast swing against the Suns, who’ve lost three straight (Detroit, Philadelphia and Charlotte). After going to the Western Conference Finals last year, the Suns are in a state of flux after seeing Amare Stoudemire skip town for New York. Trade rumors continue to swirl around Steve Nash, in the final year of his contract. Not even the mega-trade they swung with Orlando has helped right things, with Vince Carter playing like … Vince Carter. Paul Pierce got treatment and seemed likely to start after bruising his right knee late in last night’s win.

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Tip-off:10:30 p.m.
Records: Celtics (35-10), Suns (20-24)
Broadcast info: ESPN, CSN, WEEI

Probable starters:
Celtics:
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Ray Allen
SF: Paul Pierce
PF: Kevin Garnett
C: Shaquille O’Neal

Suns:
PG Steven Nash
SG Vince Carter
SF Grant Hill
PF Channing Frye
C Robin Lopez

Storylines:

Shaq likely to play: After sitting out the past week with hip soreness, Shaquille O’Neal should return to the lineup tonight. After leaving the Utah Jazz game after just six minutes last Friday, O’Neal missed the Celtics’ trip to Washington last Saturday, then sat out their win over Cleveland Tuesday. It was questionable whether he’d make the four-game West Coast swing, but he traveled with the team, sitting out last night’s win over the Blazers. He’s missed 12 games so far this season.

Dudley pushing Carter for minutes?The Suns rotation is a confusing situation. Mickael Pietras, who came over in that mega-trade with Orlando, and Josh Childress, who came back to the States after two years in Greece, have both fallen out of coach Alvin Gentry’s favor apparently. Vince Carter’s the starting two guard, but former Boston College star Jared Dudley, who earned a five-year $22.5 million extension in November, been playing just as well since Carter’s come in.

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Kevin Garnett’s into distributionWith nine dimes last night, Kevin Garnett came three dimes shy of a career high. He was the pivot man for the Celtics in the third quarter of their 88-78 win over the Blazers, dishing out six assists and setting up key buckets that helped the Celtics pile up a double-digit lead.

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