The Celtics look to snap their 2 game losing streak and stay above .500 as they host the Sacramento Kings. This is the 4th game of a 6 game Eastern road trip for the Kings. This is the first of 2 home games for the Celtics before they head out on the road for 4 games.
The Kings beat the Celtics 116-111 back in February. The Celtics were playing on the second night of back to back games, after facing the Warriors the night before. The Kings are playing on the first night of back to back games with a game against the 76ers coming up on Saturday.
These two teams tied the series 1-1 last season, with each team winning at home. The Celtics are 186-118 all time vs the Kings and they are 101-32 all time against them at home. The Kings are 13th in the West, 5.5 games out of playoff position. They are 4-6 in their last 10 games and 7-12 on the road. They are 8-13 against the East and are looking for their second straight win.
The Celtics have slipped to 8th in the East. They are tied with both the 6th place Hornets and 7th place Knicks , who own the tie breakers, and they are half a game behind both the 5th place Hawks. They are 1.5 games behind the Heat, who are now 4th. They are just 1.5 games ahead of 9th place Chicago. The Celtics are 5-5 in the last 10 games and 12-6 at home. They are 6-8 vs the West and are looking to snap a 2 game losing streak.
The Kings started a small lineup in their last game vs the Wizards. Since they won that game, I’m thinking they will start the same lineup in this game. All 5 of their starters scored at least 16 points in that win on Wednesday and they will likely come out strong against the Celtics. Marvin Bagley III (hand) and Chimezie Metu (wrist) are both out for the Kings.
Marcus Smart should be off minutes restriction by this game and so I’m hoping to see him start and finally see the starting five from last season on the court to start this game. But, as always, Brad could choose to start a different lineup and bring Smart off the bench. Semi with the starters wasn’t a big success so hopefully we will see a change. Romeo Langford and Tristan Thompson are both out due to health and safety protocols.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Daniel Theis
Robert Williams III
Romeo Langford (covid) out
Tristan Thompson (covid) out
Probable Kings Starters
PG: De’Aaron Fox
SG: Tyrese Haliburton
SF: Buddy Hield
PF: Harrison Barnes
C: Richaun Holmes
Robert Woodard II
Chimezie Metu (wrist) out
Marvin Bagley III (hand) out
Kemba Walker vs De’Aaron Fox
Fox has been playing very well, averaging 23.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He is shooting 47% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc. Fox scored 26 points in the first game in Sacramento. Fox is particularly dangerous in the 4th quarter as he is ranked 5th in the league in 4th quarter scoring. Kemba should be back and rested and hopefully can give the Celtics a boost to their offense.
Jaylen Brown vs Buddy Hield
Hield is averaging 16.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game. He is third in the league in 3 pointers made. He is shooting 39% from the field and 37% 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 16.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. He is shooting 49% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc. if you have seen any social media lately, you have probably seen at least one or 2 trade proposals to get Barnes on the Celtics. 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. The Kings have a defensive rating of 118.5, last in the league. The Celtics defensive rating has been slipping and is now at 112.3, 22nd in the league. The Celtics need to especially defend the paint as the Kings are 2nd in the league, scoring 54.9 points in the paint per game. The Kings average 115.0 points per game and the Celtics are going to need to tighten up their defense if they want to win this 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 43.9 rebounds per game to 42.7 rebounds per game for the Kings. The Celtics have to put out extra effort to beat the Kings to the boards.
Play Team Ball - The Celtics too often lapse into hero ball and several players dribble too much and try to win the game on their own. Hero ball rarely ends well and the Celtics have got to play as a team if they want to win on a consistent basis. they had just 19 assists against the Cavs. The Kings average 26 assists to 22.6 for the Celtics. The Celtics have to move the ball and trust each other, finding the open man for the best shots, instead of over dribbling and trying to win without their teammates.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics must be the more aggressive team. They have to go after loose balls and 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. Too often, especially against lower tier teams, the Celtics lack energy and allow their opponents to out-play them. The Celtics have to play like the team that wants it more.
Revenge and Pride - The Celtics need to keep in mind that this team beat them back in February and they need to come out looking to avenge that loss. They also need to find some measure of pride and play the right way and as a team and get this win so as not to drop below .500 and not to drop out of playoff contention, which they are getting close to doing.
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.