Watch It! - Celtics at Kings
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Sacramento Kings meet at 10 p.m. tonight at Sleep Train Arena.
Cousins is Expected to be Back
DeMarcus Cousins missed Sacramento’s game against the Warriors Wednesday night due to a strained right hip flexor. He returned to practice on Thursday and is expected to be in the lineup tonight.
“(Cousins) moved very well,” said Kings coach Michael Malone told the Sacramento Bee on Thursday. “Obviously he’ll practice tomorrow and we expect him to be ready to go for the game against Boston.”
Having Cousins available for tonight’s game would be an enormous boost for the Kings. He is the team’s leading scorer (22.5 PPG), leading rebounder (11.7 RPG) and top low-post threat.
Battle of the Bigs
If anyone knows how important Cousins is to the Kings, it’s the Celtics. Boston watched Cousins go off against them back on Feb. 7 as he totaled 31 points and 16 boards.
However, Cousins wasn’t the only big man who had a big night during that meeting. Jared Sullinger was even more dominant, as he matched Cousins’ output of 31 points and 16 rebounds while playing six less minutes.
Seeing these two go back-and-forth was as entertaining as it gets. Now we’ll all be afforded with an opportunity to see the matchup unfold yet again. It’s a safe bet that the Sullinger-Cousins matchup will make this game worth the price of admission for those in Sacramento.
No Rondo Against Kings… Again
Boston downed Sacramento three weeks ago without the services of star point guard Rajon Rondo. The Celtics will attempt to do the same when they meet the Kings again tonight.
Rondo has had his minutes restriction lifted but the team is still holding him out of back-to-backs. The Celtics will be playing in Sacramento one night after falling to the Lakers in Los Angeles. Brad Stevens announced far ahead of this back-to-back that Rondo would not be playing against the Kings.
The Celtics will need to find some way to create offense without Rondo, which will be quite a challenge. They have shot an average of 39.1 percent from the field in their first two games out of the All-Star break, and that was with Rondo in the lineup. Now they’ll be without their top passer against a team that has been surprisingly solid on defense thus far in 2014.
Rest vs. Fatigue
As we’ve already discussed, tonight’s game will mark the second in as many nights for the Celtics. They fell in L.A. last night and arrived at their hotel in Sacramento in the wee hours of Saturday morning.
What also works against Boston is the fact that their loss to the Lakers went down to the final minute. All five of the Celtics' starters logged at least 29 minutes of action Friday night, while no reserve played more than 18. It wouldn’t be a shocker if Boston’s starters experience some fatigue as they battle the Kings.
Sacramento, on the other hand, heads into this matchup with plenty of rest. It has played only one game since the break and one game in the last nine days overall. The Kings practiced the last two days and should be set up nicely from a physical standpoint for Saturday’s tilt with the C’s.
Connect from Long Range
One of the driving forces to Boston’s 19 wins this season has been 3-point shooting. The Celtics have shot 38.4 percent from long range in their wins but just 29.7 percent in their losses.
The 3-point shot has been nonexistent for the Celtics since the All-Star break. They have shot 9-of-39 (23.1 percent) in their last two games.
Boston is a different team when it’s making 3s, and for several reasons. Most obvious is the fact that those shots are worth more than any other, but more importantly is the fact that successful perimeter shooting opens the rest of the court up on offense.
The Celtics have already shown Sacramento that they’re capable of connecting from long range. They hit nine of their 22 attempts (40.9 percent) during these teams’ matchup two weeks ago en route to 99 points and a 10-point win.