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Boston Celtics (49-23) at Sacramento Kings (43-27) Game #73

The Celtics finish their 6 game road trip with a stop in Sacramento to take on the Kings.

Sacramento Kings v Boston Celtics Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

The Celtics close out their Western road trip with a stop in Sacramento to take on the Kings. This is the second and final meeting between these two teams this season. The Celtics won the first meeting 122-104 in Boston on November 25 but these definitely aren’t the Kings that were the easy win of years past. The Celtics won the series 2-0 last season.

The Celtics have been off since their 1 points loss to the Jazz on Saturday. The Kings, on the other hand, are playing in the second of back to back games and their 3rd game in 4 nights. The Kings are 7-5 on the second night of back to back games. In the Sacramento era, the Celtics are 43-29 against the Kings and 15-22 in Sacramento. They are 188-119 all time against the Kings and 68-75 all time on the road.

This is the final game of the Celtics’ 6 game road trip. They are 3-2 so far on the trip. They will return home to face the Pacers and Spurs before heading out for a 2 game road trip, including a very important game in Milwaukee against the first place Bucks. The Kings just returned home from a 4 game road trip where they went 4-0. This is the first game of a 4 game home stand for them.

The Celtics had dropped to third in the East behind the 76ers. However, the 76ers lost in double OT to the Bulls on Monday and that puts the Celtics back into 2nd, half a game ahead of the 76ers. The Celtics are 2.5 games behind the first place Bucks. The Celtics are 23-14 on the road and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 20-7 against Western Conference foes and they are coming off a loss.

The Sacramento Kings are 3rd in the West. They are 4.5 games behind 1st place Denver. They are 1 game behind 2nd place Memphis, who won on Monday, and 5 games ahead of 4th place Phoenix. They are 21-14 at home and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 16-13 against Eastern Conference opponents. They had won their last 3 games before losing to the Jazz on Monday night.

Al Horford (back) and Marcus Smart (hip) and Robert Williams III (hamstring) all missed Saturday’s game against the Jazz but all three are no longer on the injury list. I’m expecting that if Robert Williams returns for this game, he will likely come off the bench and face a minutes restriction. Danilo Gallinari (ACL) and Payton Pritchard (heel) remain out for the Celtics. Kevin Huerter (knee) is questionable for the Kings. If Huerter returns, he will likely start at shooting guard.

Probable Celtics Starters

PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Al Horford

Celtics Reserves
Grant Williams
Malcolm Brogdon
Sam Hauser
Payton Pritchard
Blake Griffin
Luke Kornet
Mike Muscala
Robert Williams III

2 Way Players
JD Davison
Mfiondu Kabengele

Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Payton Pritchard (heel) out

Head Coach
Joe Mazzulla

Probable Kings Starters

PG: De’Aaron Fox
SG: Kessler Edwards
SF: Harrison Barnes
PF: Keegan Murray
C : Domantas Sabonis

Kings Reserves
Terrence Davis II
Matthew Dellavedova
PJ Dozier
Richaun Holmes
Alex Len
Trey Lyles
Chimezie Metu
Davion Mitchell
Malik Monk

Two Way Players
Keon Ellis
Neemias Queta

Kevin Huerter (knee) questionable

Head Coach
Mike Brown

Key Matchups

Marcus Smart vs De’Aaron Fox
Fox is averaging 25.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 51.3% from the field and 33.1% from beyond the arc. 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 19.2 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 7.2 assists per game. He is shooting 61.2% from the field and 35.5% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to keep him out of the paint and off the boards. Al Horford should be well rested coming into this game.

Honorable Mention
Jayson Tatum vs Keegan Murray
Murray is averaging 11.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. He is shooting 44.3% from the field and 40.6% from beyond the arc. He is especially a threat to hit 3’s for the Kings. Jayson Tatum has been struggling somewhat and the Celtics really need him to get back on track and have a good game.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the key to every game. The Kings have a defensive rating of 115.8(24th). The Celtics defensive rating is 111.2, 4th in the league. The Celtics need to especially defend the paint as the Kings are average 52.4 points in the paint per game. The Kings are tops in the league, averaging 121.1 points per game and the Celtics are 4th with 117.6 points per game. The Celtics must also defend the perimeter as the Kings are shooting 37.4% from 3 as a team. 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 45.1 rebounds per game to 42.3 rebounds per game for the Kings. The Celtics have struggled to limit offensive rebounds recently and they have to put out extra effort to beat the Kings to the boards and to limit their second chance points.

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. The Celtics must play with increased focus and effort if they expect to beat the Kings.

Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics are 6th in the league, averaging 13.4 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 11th, averaging 17.7 points off turnovers per game and if the Celtics get sloppy, the Kings will definitely make them pay.

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. The Celtics also beat the Kings 122-104 earlier this season. However, the Kings have been playing really well recently and have a 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.

Final Game of Road Trip - The final game of a long road trip is always a very tough one. Players are tired and have traveled many miles across different time zones and are looking forward to getting home. The Celtics have to stay focused on the game and on playing the right way and not on the rigors of travel on the road. Road fatigue always comes into play when you have played 6 straight on the road.

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.

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