The Celtics return home after a big win over the Wizards on the road as they host the Sacramento Kings for the first of 2 games between them this season. The Celtics will face the Kings for a second time on March 18 in Sacramento. The Kings won the series 2-0 last season and their Summer League team beat the Celtics Summer League team for the Summer League Championship.
The Celtics are home for just one game before heading on the road for back to back games against the Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans Pelicans on Friday and Saturday. They will have a rare 2 day break between this game and Friday’s game in Atlanta. The Kings are playing in the 2nd game of a 5 game road trip. This is the first of back to back games for them as they play in Atlanta on Wednesday. Both the Celtics and Hawks will be coming off games against the Kings before their game against each other on Friday.
The Celtics moved up to 8th place as the result of their win over the Wizards. They are tied with 9th place Toronto, 2.5 games behind 7th place Charlotte and 4 games behind the 6th place 76ers. The Celtics are 15-10 at home and 6-4 in their last 10 games. They are 7-11 against Western Conference teams. The Kings are 12th in the West. They have lost their last 3 games and are 2-8 in their last 10 games. They are 6-14 on the road and 5-10 against Eastern Conference teams. They are 3 games behind 10th place and 3.5 games ahead of last place.
The Celtics have just their two recent additions on the injury list. Bol Bol is out after having foot surgery and PJ Dozier is out as he rehabs a torn ACL. For the Kings, De’Aaron Fox was a late scratch on Saturday with ankle soreness. He is listed as a game time decision but I expect him to be ready since he had 2 days off since their last game. If Fox is out, I expect Tyrese Haliburton to move to the point and Terence Davis to start at shooting guard. Damian Jones is also questionable with ankle soreness. The Kings fired head coach Luke Walton in November and are led by interim coach Alvin Gentry.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams
Bol Bol (foot) out
PJ Dozier (knee) out
Probable Kings Starters
PG: De’Aaron Fox
SG: Tyrese Haliburton
SF: Harrison Barnes
PF: Marvin Bagley III
C : Richaun Holmes
Terence Davis II
Robert Woodard II
De’Aaron Fox (ankle) questionable
Damian Jones (ankle) questionable
Two Way Players
Alvin Gentry (Interim)
Marcus Smart vs De’Aaron Fox
Fox is averaging 21 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 45.8% from the field but just 24.8% from beyond the arc. If Fox is out for this game, Haliburton will likely start at the point. Marcus Smart returned from a 6 game absence and game the Celtics a boost against the Wizards. They will need his toughness, defense, and heart in this game as well.
Jayson Tatum vs Harrison Barnes
Barnes is averaging 16.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game. He is shooting 45.7% from the field and 41.8% from beyond the arc. He is coming off a 29 point, 6 rebound game against the Bucks. The Celtics definitely need to stay with him on the perimeter. Jayson Tatum finally broke out of his slump in a big way with an efficient 51 points against the Wizards. The Celtics need him to pick up where he left off in that game and not to go back to struggling again.
Dennis Schroder vs Buddy Hield
Hield is averaging 15.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. He is shooting 39.1% from the field and 38.1% from beyond the arc. Hield is 2nd in the league in total 3 pointers made this season. He is first among reserves in 3 pointers made. Schroder is back to coming off the bench with the starters all back and healthy. The Celtics need him to play with energy on both ends of the court.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the key to every game. The Kings have a defensive rating of 113.8(28th). The Celtics defensive rating is 106.9, 5th in the league. The Celtics need to especially defend the paint as the Kings are 5th in the league, scoring 49.3 points in the paint per game. The Kings average 110.5 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 45.8 rebounds per game to 44.3 rebounds per game for the Kings. The Kings are 6th in the league with 14.4 second chance points per game. The Celtics have to put out extra effort to beat the Kings to the boards and to limit their second chance points.
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.
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. 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. They also have to have each others’ backs on defense and be sure to make their switches and defensive assignments.
Focus and Effort - The Celtics need to stay focused on playing the right way. They have to focus on moving the ball carefully, on taking good shots, on going after loose balls and on playing the right way. In the past, the Celtics would beat much better teams just because they played harder and put out more effort. This season, the opposite has been true as several depleted and sub .500 teams have played harder than them and the Celtics lost games that they shouldn’t have. The Celtics must play with increased focus and effort if they expect to beat the Kings.
Pride and Positioning - The Celtics need to keep in mind that this team beat them twice last season and also beat them for the Summer League Championship. They need to come out strong and avenge those losses. 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 once again and take this opportunity to continue to climb in the Eastern standings. They have a chance to improve their position and so they need to have some pride and not slip back down once again.
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.