The Celtics continue their West Coast road trip with a stop in Sacramento to take on the Kings. The Celtics are coming off a game against the Warriors on Tuesday night. The Kings last played on Monday night. The Celtics are 3-0 on the second night of back to back games, with one game postponed. They are 1-0 when the games are both on the road.
The Celtics are 4th in the East, 3.5 games behind first place Philadelphia. They are 6-5 on the road and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They have lost their last 2 games and are 1-2 vs Western teams. The Kings are 11th in the West, 6.5 games out of 1st and 1.5 games out of 8th. They are 5-6 at home and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are coming off a win and are 5-2 vs Eastern teams.
The Celtics could really use Marcus Smart against De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield but he is out with the calf injury that he suffered against the Lakers. In spite of some optimism by Brad Stevens that he might return for this game, Payton Pritchard is still out with the knee injury. Romeo Langford is also still out as he rehabs from off season wrist surgery.
Kemba Walker is also listed as out for knee injury management. With Kemba out, that leaves Jeff Teague and Tremont Waters on their point guard depth chart. Brad started Tremont Waters in Kemba’s place once already so I’m making a wild guess that he will start again with both Marcus Smart and Payton Pritchard out as well. I wouldn’t rule out some creativity by Brad here, however.
For the Kings, Nemaja Bjelica is questionable due to back spasms. DaQuan Jeffries is out due to an ankle sprain. Even though the Red Claws are not playing in the G-League, there are games going on and Jahmi’us Ramsey and Robert Woodard II are both out on G-League assignment.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Tremont Waters
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Daniel Theis
C: Tristan Thompson
Robert Williams III
Romeo Langford (wrist) out
Payton Pritchard (knee) out
Marcus Smart (calf) out
Kemba Walker (rest) out
Probable Kings Starters
PG: De’Aaron Fox
SG: Buddy Hield
SF: Harrison Barnes
PF: Marvin Bagley III
C : Richaun Holmes
Glenn Robinson III
Injuries and NWT
Nemanja Bjelica (back) questionable
DaQuan Jeffries (ankle) out
Jahmi’us Ramsey (G League) out
Robert Woodard II (G League) out
Tremont Waters vs De’Aaron Fox
Fox has been playing very well, averaging 21.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He is shooting 46% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc. Hopefully whoever starts here can hold his own on both ends of the court.
Jaylen Brown vs Buddy Hield
Hield is averaging 16.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He has hit at least one three pointer in 85 straight games and is 2nd to Curry in 3 point field goals made. He is shooting 50% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. Jaylen will need to stay with him, particularly on the perimeter as he is always looking to shoot from the outside.
Jayson Tatum vs Harrison Barnes
Barnes is averaging 16.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.4 assists. He is shooting 50% from the field and 42% from beyond the arc. He is a threat to score whenever he has the ball and Jayson will need to stick with him.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the key to every game. After being a top 4 defensive team last season, the Celtics are struggling on that end this season. Without their best defender, it will be even harder now. The Kings have a defensive rating of 118.2, last in the league. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 108.9 (10th). These two teams are very close offensively and so if the Celtics want to win this game, they are going to have to do it on the defensive end.
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 44.3 rebounds per game to 43.4 rebounds per game for the Kings. The Celtics have to put out extra effort to beat the Kings to the boards.
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.
Take Care of the Ball - This season, the Celtics have been sloppy with the ball and have had way too many unforced turnovers. They seem to have one stretch in every game when they turn the ball over several times in a row and that often is what takes them out of the game. They need to move the ball and find the open man, but they also have to make careful passes and not turn it over.
Back to Back on the Road - The Celtics are on the second game of a 5 game Western road trip. They are also playing on back to back nights. They have the usual distractions of playing on the road including, travel, hotel stays, missing family, and unfamiliar surroundings. But they also have the fatgue that comes from travel after a game and playing back to back. Can they overcome all that to come out with a win?
Point Guard Depth - With Marcus Smart and Payton Pritchard out with injuries and Kemba out for injury management, that leaves the Celtics very thin in the front court. Tremont Waters hasn’t had much playing time to prove himself and Jeff Teague has struggled mightily in his minutes. Can one, or both of them, step up and give the Celtics quality minutes at the point? That is a big question that remains to be answered.
Officiating - Officiating can always be an x-factor. Every crew will call the game differently. Some will call every little thing and the game will have no flow. Others will let a lot go and let them play. Some crews favor the home team while others call it evenly. The Celtics need to adjust to how the game is called and not let the officials take away their focus.