The Celtics continue their home stand with a visit from the surprising Sacramento Kings. These aren’t your father’s Kings. They had won 7 straight games before losing to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. The Kings are playing in the final game of a 3 game road trip through Memphis, Atlanta and now Boston. The Celtics are playing in the 2nd game of a 6 game home stand.
The Celtics are first in the East, 1.5 games ahead of second place Milwaukee. They are 7-1 at home and 9-1 in their last 10 games. They had their 9 game win streak snapped by Chicago before getting back in the win column on Wednesday against the Dallas Mavericks. The Celtics are a perfect 5-0 against Western Conference opponents.
The Kings are 5th in the West, just 1 game out of first and half a game out of 9th. They are 4-4 on the road and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They had won 7 straight games before Wednesday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks. They are looking to begin a new win streak as they take on the Celtics. The Kings are 6-2 against Eastern Conference opponents.
The Celtics won the series 2-0 last season by an average of 41 points per game. The Celtics are 43-29 overall all time against the Kings in the Sacramento era. They are 28-7 over that time in games played in Boston. All time including Rochester, Cincinnati, and Kansas City, the Celtics are 188-119 overall and 102-33 all time in games played in Boston. The Celtics can’t assume that because the Kings have been bad previously that they will have an easy game since the Kings have been playing very well.
Against Chicago, Joe Mazzulla went back to Derrick White in the starting lineup. He may stick with that or go back to Grant Williams starting. Robert Williams III (knee) remains out but rumors are that he will be back by Christmas. Danilo Gallinari (knee) is expected to miss the entire season. I’m assuming that Jayson Tatum will be good to go after being questionable before playing on Wednesday. The Kings have no injuries listed.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Al Horford
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Robert Williams III (knee) out
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Kings Starters
PG: De’Aaron Fox
SG: Kevin Huerter
SF: Harrison Barnes
PF: Keegan Murray
C : Domantas Sabonis
Terrence Davis II
Two Way Players
Marcus Smart vs De’Aaron Fox
Fox is averaging 25.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He is shooting 55.5% from the field and 40.8% from beyond the arc. He is coming off a big game on Wednesday with 32 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals. The Celtics will need to slow him down and also take care of the ball as he is always a threat to get a steal.
Al Horford v Domantas Sabonis
Sabonis is averaging 17.0 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game. He is shooting 57.9% from the field but just 29.4% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to keep him out of the paint and off the boards. Al Horford is coming off a game where he shot 5-5 from the field and 4-4 on three pointers. It would be great if he could continue that hot streak.
Derrick White vs Kevin Huerter
Huerter is averaging 16.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.0 steals per game. He is shooting 50.5% from the field and 50.0% from beyond the arc. It’s possible that Mazzulla goes back to Grant Williams in the starting lineup and, if so, Jaylen Brown will start at shooting guard and be matched with the hot shooting Huerter.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the key to every game. The Kings have a defensive rating of 113.7(25th). The Celtics defensive rating is 111.9, 17th in the league. The Celtics need to especially defend the paint as the Kings are average 50.9 points in the paint per game. The Kings are tops in the league, averaging 120.0 points per game and the Celtics are right behind them with 119.7 points per game. The Celtics need to tighten up their defense as chances are that they will not win a shoot out with the hot shooting Kings.
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 42.2 rebounds per game to 41.0 rebounds per game for the Kings. The Celtics have to put out extra effort to beat the Kings to the boards and to limit their second chance points.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics are 4th in the league, averaging 13.3 turnovers per game. However, they tend to go through periods in the game where they lose focus and turn the ball over too much. The Kings are 7th, averaging 19.3 points off turnovers per game and if the Celtics get sloppy, the Kings will definitely make them pay.
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. They lost to the Bulls because they allowed them to be the team that played harder. The Celtics must play with increased focus and effort if they expect to beat the Kings.
Underestimation - The Kings have been one of the doormats of the league for many years. The Celtics beat them by 29 and 53 points last season. However, the Kings have been playing really well this season and have an even better offense than the Celtics. If the Celtics underestimate the Kings and expect to beat them with anything less than maximum effort and focus, they will find themselves with another loss.
Coaching - Mike Brown, who is coaching the Kings, has been a head coach for 9 years and has a record of 356-222 over those 9 years. This is his first season with the Kings and he has been doing a good job with them so far. Joe Mazzulla was thrown into the job of head coach just 2 weeks before the season and has also been doing a good job with the Celtics, but there’s a learning curve and hopefully he will do well against veteran coach Mike Brown.
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 or have a personal agenda. The Celtics need to adjust to how the game is called and not let the officials take away their focus.