Celtics-Kings review: C's defense flops in Sacramento

972927.jpg

Celtics-Kings review: C's defense flops in Sacramento

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.

Al Horford makes his mark on Celtics win with defense

Al Horford makes his mark on Celtics win with defense

BOSTON – Al Horford had the kind of game that stands out because of the way he scored from so many different spots on the floor. 

But the true measure of his value to this team usually lies in what he brings to the floor defensively. 

Horford had one of his better games defensively in Boston’s 97-92 win over Sacramento on Friday, a game in which he had a season-high six blocked shots. 

For the season, the four-time All-Star is averaging a career-high 2.9 blocks per game.

He’ll be looking to do more of the same tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

While Philly doesn’t have a player as dominant and difficult to contain as DeMarcus Cousins, their top post player Joel Embiid has been impressive even with a minutes restriction after having missed the last two seasons with injuries and recovery. 

Against Sacramento, he had a season-high six blocked shots which was one short of tying his career high which came against the Kings during the 2010-2011 season. 

Although Horford has ranked among the NBA’s top big men when it comes to blocking shots, the Celtics knew when they signed him to a four-year, $113 million contract they were adding a player who could help with rim protection. 

The biggest play in the Celtics’ win over Sacramento came in the closing seconds when Horford was credited with blocking DeMarcus Cousins’ shot. Horford was fouled and went to the line and made his free throws to secure the victory. 

“Playing at the power forward position it really frees me up defensively,” Horford said. “I feel like I can run around a little more and have more impact. When you are a center a lot of the times you get caught up with the bigs and it’s a little harder to get out to shooters and stuff. I’m just trying to be active, as active as I can.”

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas who was among the Green Teamers to recruit Horford to sign with Boston, seeing him protect the rim the way he did on Friday was no surprise.

“We’ve always known when we recruited him we knew that was what he was good at,” Thomas said. “Even if he doesn’t block shots, he alters shots and changes them. He’s a hell of a player on both ends of the floor and he played a hell of a game (on Friday).”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens likes what he sees out of Horford defensively, especially now that he plays for Boston and not Atlanta which eliminated the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs last season. 

“He was terrific in our series,” Stevens said. “Terrific. And so, playing him 10 times last year, and so, I mean, I think I’m an idiot but after 10 times I had at least an idea. You know, he’s all over the place and he covers a lot of ground, he calls out calls, and I think he’s a competitive guy. And that proof is in his winning track record.”