Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum face off in a cross-conference clash in Phoenix on ABC.

Jayson Tatum and the Celtics have dropped two straight games for just the 2nd time this season.

Get ready for a star-studded matchup with Kevin Durant and the Suns hosting Jayson Tatum and the Celtics (8:30 ET, ABC). Here are three things to monitor tonight.

1. Celtics try to avoid first three-game losing streak

Boston took over first place in the Eastern Conference from Philadelphia on Nov. 15 and never looked back, building the best record in the NBA by a wide margin. The Celtics enter this weekend with a 7 1/2-game lead over the Bucks in the East and a 4 1/2-game lead on the West-leading Wolves.

In addition to stacking wins, the Celtics have been great about avoiding consecutive losses. After dropping two in a row in November, they responded with six straight wins. Four months later, they’re facing the same circumstance for just the second time this season after opening a five-game road trip with back-to-back close losses to Cleveland and Denver.

En route to their league-best 48-14 record, the Celtics have put together one of the top point differentials in league history (+11.1 per 100 possessions) and became the first team with three 50+ point wins in a season. Their last two losses came in close games featuring clutch time. Boston is 18-10 in clutch games this season.

2. Suns try to hold guaranteed playoff spot

The Suns enter Saturday with a half-game lead over the Kings for the No. 6 spot in the West while trailing New Orleans by a full game. Phoenix is locked in a crowded race and walking the proverbial tightrope between a guaranteed playoff spot (top 6 finish) and the SoFi Play-In Tournament (7-10 finish).

As they try to hold off the likes of the Kings (half-game back), Mavs (2 games back), Lakers (3 games back) and Warriors (3 1/2 games back), they are shorthanded as second-leading scorer (27.5 ppg )and leading playmaker (6.8 apg) Devin Booker is sidelined with a sprained ankle.

The Suns have gone 2-1 since Booker’s injury, including a road win over the defending champion Nuggets in overtime after blowing a 22-point lead in the second half. Can the Suns beat another elite team in the Celtics at home while they await Booker’s return – which initial timetables (7-10 days) would have him back next week?

3. Tatum-Durant matchup history

 As a rookie, Jayson Tatum told us a story of the first time he met Kevin Durant in high school.

“I went to the KD Skills Academy during my sophomore year. He was there, obviously, and they gave us a chance to play pick-up with him and some of his friends. I just remember being so excited, like ‘Wow, this is KD, we get to play against him.’

“For some reason, I thought he was going to be nice and he was going to take it easy, but he was playing hard,” Tatum said. “He was dunking on us and blocking our shot, and it kind of made me realize that when you get on the floor, there’s no friends out here. No matter how young we were, when he stepped on the floor, he was going at us.

“And that’s something I’ll always remember … It’s basketball when we get on the floor,” Tatum said.

Tonight will be the ninth regular-season matchup between Tatum and Durant, with the head-to-head series tied at 4-4. The two met in consecutive years in the opening round of the playoffs with Durant’s Brooklyn Nets bouncing Tatum’s Celtics 4-1 in 2021, only for Tatum and the Celtics to sweep KD and the Nets the following year. That gives Tatum a 5-4 edge in postseason head-to-head matchups.

Can Tatum match his 5-4 playoff edge in regular-season games? Or will KD make it 9-9 overall between the two MVP candidates? Tatum ranks fourth, while Durant ranks ninth in Michael C. Wright’s latest Kia MVP Ladder.