Watch It! - Kings at Celtics
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Sacramento Kings meet at 7:30 p.m. tonight at TD Garden.
Two Teams Riding High
Tonight will be the first time in a long time in which the Celtics head into a game riding a two-game winning streak. It hasn’t been quite as long for Sacramento, but the Kings know where the C’s are coming from.
Boston downed Orlando on Sunday and then defeated Philadelphia on Wednesday for its first back-to-back wins since beating the Knicks on Dec. 13 and the Timberwolves on Dec. 16. Rajon Rondo was a key cog in the two victories, averaging 13.5 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game and 10.5 assists per game.
The Kings have also won two straight heading into tonight, thanks in large part to their star center, DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins has scored 25 points in each of the last two games while averaging 13 rebounds. His play has led to Sacramento’s first consecutive wins since defeating Orlando on Jan. 10 and Cleveland on Jan. 12.
Believe us when we tell you that the Kings pack a legitimate offensive punch. They average 101.8 PPG, which ranks 13th in the NBA. Eleven of the 12 teams ahead of them in that column own winning records, so they’re in good company.
The majority of Sacramento’s offensive power comes from its three-headed monster of Cousins, Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas. All three of those players average at least 20.0 PPG this season. We repeat: all three of those players average 20.0 PPG this season.
Cousins stands as the Kings’ top scorer with an average of 22.7 PPG. That ranks ninth in the entire NBA. Gay (20.8 PPG with Sacramento) and Thomas (20.0 PPG) are not far behind.
Rondo in the Post
We outlined on Thursday that Rondo is beginning to look like himself again. He’s running the offense perfectly, especially in pick-and-roll situations.
Rondo is sure to run plenty of pick-and-rolls tonight but he may elect to operate in the post as well. He has shown a penchant for posting up against smaller guards in the past, which allows him to survey the court while oftentimes demanding double-teams.
Sacramento would likely need to double Rondo if he chooses to post up against Thomas tonight. Thomas is listed at 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds. Even that listing may be generous.
Rondo has posted up only three times during his eight games this season, according to Synergy Sports. Expect that number to rise tonight against Thomas and the Kings.
Sacramento owns the third-worst scoring defense in the league, giving up 103.2 PPG, but it has turned things around during its last two games. The Kings shut down both the Bulls and the Raptors earlier in the week.
Chicago was limited to one of the worst offensive performances in the NBA this season when it met Sacramento on Monday night. The Bulls scored just 70 points and shot a woeful 28.2 percent from the field. The Kings followed that defensive performance up with another strong effort against the Raptors, whom Sacramento limited to just 42.9 percent shooting.
The NBA is a “what have you done for me lately” league. Lately, the Kings have been fantastic on defense, a fact the Celtics cannot afford to ignore.
Big Challenge for Sullinger
Jared Sullinger is going to have one heck of a challenge tonight in facing off with Cousins. Cousins has solidified himself as a star in this league by averaging 22.7 PPG and 11.6 RPG this season.
Cousins will have a distinct size advantage over Sullinger when the two are matched up. Sacramento’s big man stands in at 6-foot-11, while Sullinger is just 6-foot-9. Sullinger, of course, is used to defending bigger players, but not many of them have the offensive repertoire that Cousins possesses.
The majority of this matchup will be played on the block, where Cousins makes his living. He is the focal point of Sacramento’s offense and 32.4 percent of his possessions this season have been post ups, according to Synergy Sports. That means that Sullinger will need to body up and defend tonight in order to help the Celtics win this game.