SACRAMENTO The Boston Celtics come back, and then ... they come up short.
It has been that way far too often this season, with Sunday's 118-96 loss to the Sacramento Kings being no exception.
And the reasons the C's can't sustain a run lasting more than a couple of minutes, is that's about as long as their once-vaunted but now vulnerable defense, can last.
Dribble penetration, especially at the point guard position, has been an issue all season.
But on Sunday, Boston's help-side defense was just as responsible for the Kings guards and wings penetrating into the lane for easy lay-ups or kick-outs to wide open shooters.
So the Celtics head back to Boston, worse off in just about every way imaginable before venturing out West.
Of course there's plenty of time left in the season to turn things around.
But outside the C's locker room, you would be hard-pressed to find many folks who believe this team as they are assembled, will improve much even with the return of Avery Bradley this week.
Here's a review of the keys identified prior to the game, and who they played out as the Celtics cap off their West coast trip with a third straight loss.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: With the Celtics short-handed in the backcourt, the Kings will look to push the tempo as much as possible. Although it hasn't resulted in many wins this season, the Kings have actually been a decent team in terms of scoring in transition. They come into tonight's game averaging 15.3 fast-break points per game which ranks ninth in the league.
WHAT WE SAW: Boston's transition defense was about as bad as we've seen this season, with the Kings scoring 20 fast-break points which seemed like it was a lot more than that.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jason Terry vs Marcus Thornton: In the Celtics lone game against the Kings last season, Thornton lit them up for 36 points in one of the biggest Sacramento blowout wins (120-95) over the Celtics ever. With Rajon Rondo (right hipthigh) likely out for a second straight game, getting good shots for Terry will be challenging yet again for Boston.
WHAT WE SAW: A sprained left ankle injury took Thornton out of the mix in the third quarter. At the time, he had five points on 2-for-7 shooting. Terry was well in control of this matchup even before Thornton's injury as Terry scored 14 of his 20 points in the first half.
PLAYER TO WATCH: DeMarcus Cousins is so talented, it's hard not to keep all eyes on him when he plays. But far too often it his temper and not his talent, that leaves an indelible impression on the game. If he sticks to the latter, the Celtics - a team that has been rumored to have some interest in trading for him - are going to be in for a long, long night.
WHAT WE SAW: Cousins didn't score much, but there was no mistaking his all-around game was a big reason for the Kings' blowout win. He finished with a triple-double - his first of his career - of 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
STAT TO TRACK: In the last two games, Boston's 3-point shooting defense has been horrible. The Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State each nailed a dozen 3s, something the C's had not allowed to happen in consecutive games since Seattle (now Oklahoma City) and Toronto did it in December of 2003 with 17 and 13 made 3s, respectively.
WHAT WE SAW: Sacramento wasn't nearly as prolific with its 3-point shooting as the Celtics' previous opponents - they made just 10 on Sunday. While the C's defense may have been somewhat of a factor, the bigger reason was because Sacramento was having so much success attacking the rim and getting baskets off the dribble and in transition.