The Celtics continue their West Coast road trip with a game against the Sacramento Kings. This is the first time these two teams are meeting this season. They will play again in Boston in 8 days on March 14. The Celtics swept the series 2-0 last season. Since they own the Kings draft pick, beating them in this game would have a double benefit.
The Celtics are playing on the second night of back to back games after a big win over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night. They have just one more back to back set this season on March 29 and 30. The Celtics are 4-5 on the second night of back to back games. They are 1-2 when both games are on the road.
The Celtics are 5th in the East, 2.5 games behind 4th place Philadelphia and 3 behind 3rd place Indiana. They are 15-16 on the road and 11-13 against Western Conference teams. The Kings are 9th in the West, 3 games out of the playoffs behind the 8th place Spurs. They have played well at home going 20-13. They are 4-6 in their last 10 games and are 14-7 against Eastern Conference teams. Both teams are looking for their second straight win.
The Celtics were finally healthy, with no one on the injury list for the Warriors’ game. The Celtics just announced that Kyrie won’t play in this game with a thigh contusion. Aron Baynes is still playing himself back from his recent foot injury. Gordon Hayward played very well before the All Star Break and then had a set back when he sprained his ankle over the break. Given his performance against the Warriors, I’d say he’s back to feeling pretty good. Hopefully we see the same Hayward in this one. For the Kings, Marvin Bagley III is out with a knee injury.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Marcus Morris Sr
C: Al Horford
Terry Rozier III
Robert Williams III
Kyrie Irving (thigh) out
Two Way Players
P. J. Dozier
Probable Kings Starters
PG: De’Aaron Fox
SG: Buddy Hield
SF: Bogdan Bogdanovic
PF: Harrison Barnes
C : Willie Cauley-Stein
Harry Giles III
Frank Mason III
Marvin Bagley III (knee) out
Two Way Players
Marcus Smart vs Buddy Hield
Hield is averaging 20.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists. He is also shooting 44% from beyond the arc so Marcus will need to stay with him especially on the perimeter.
Terry Rozier vs De’Aaron Fox
Fox is averaging 17.2 points, 3.7 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 1.7 steals per game. He is a very quick point guard and with Kyrie out, Terry will need to stay with him on the breaks to prevent easy baskets.
Marcus Morris vs Harrison Barnes
Barnes is averaging 16.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists and can put up big games. Marcus needs to play tough defense as well as hopefully getting his own shot back on track.
Keys to the Game
Rebound - Much of rebounding is effort and desire. The Celtics have to put out extra effort to grab the rebounds on both ends of the court. By doing so, they limit the second chance points and fast breaks for the Kings and also give themselves extra possessions. The Celtics are averaging 44.9 rebounds per game to 45.4 rebounds per game for the Kings. The Celtics have to put out extra effort to beat the Kings to the boards.
Defense - The Celtics are 5th in the league with a defensive rating of 105.9. The Kings are 19th with a defensive rating of 109.8. Defense wins games. The Celtics must make defense a priority. The Celtics also must particularly guard the perimeter as the Kings shoot the fifth highest percentage (37.5%) from beyond the arc as a team.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics must be the more aggressive team. They have to go after loose balls, rebounds and also be more aggressive defensively. They have to be aggressive in going to the basket and also in moving the ball. The more aggressive team usually gets the calls and also the win. The Celtics have to play like the team that wants it more.
Move the Ball- The Celtics play best when they keep the ball moving to find the open man. When they tend to dribble too much or take quick shots, the rest of their game seems to become stagnant. The Celtics need to play team ball and keep the ball moving.
On the Road - The Celtics need to block out the distractions of playing on the road and a hostile crowd and focus on playing Celtics basketball. They need to come out strong to keep the crowd out of the game also.
Back to Back - After a big win over the Warriors on Tuesday, the Celtics have to travel and play another tough game on Wednesday. They could have a let down game after such a big win. Also, fatigue could come into play at the end of this game. Hopefully the Celtics will have enough energy to play tough throughout the game and close the game out strong.