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

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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.

Report: Cavs. Pacers, Nuggets discuss deal involving George, Love

Report: Cavs. Pacers, Nuggets discuss deal involving George, Love

Don’t count the Cleveland Cavaliers out of the Paul George sweepstakes just yet.

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein and Chris Haynes, the Cavaliers are still working on a way to get George with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Ohio.

The latest rumor involves a three way deal being discussed between the Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, and Denver Nuggets. According to Hayes, the deal would send George and Kenenth Faried to Cleveland and Kevin Love to Denver.

Presumably, Indiana would end up with good picks and a few young assets.

Click here for the complete story.

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl. 

What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.  

But in a roundabout way he might. 

MORE: How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.

If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders. 

Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.

Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).

For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. 

We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track.