Celtics-Kings review: What we saw

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Celtics-Kings review: What we saw

SACRAMENTO, Calif. Lately, the Boston Celtics have managed to win games despite not playing their best. In those games, there was always a stretch of play when their defense took over.

But on Friday, the Celtics' defense could do nothing right as the Sacramento Kings pulled away for a surprisingly easy 120-95 win.

"We have to understand who we are," said Paul Pierce. "We're a defensive group. We tried to play their game, got caught in the run and gun instead of settling down, getting the ball to Kevin more on the inside, taking advantage of that; settling a lot for perimeter jumpers which allowed them to get out on the break and take advantage of their speed and quickness."

Kevin Garnett, your thoughts on the team's decisively lopsided loss?

"Probably like outside today," Garnett said. "Grey, muggy and slow."

Fortunately for the Celtics (23-20), they don't have to think about tonight's loss for too long, not with another road game at Denver Saturday night. Several factors contributed to the loss. Here's a look back at a few factors that were highlighted before the game, and how they actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Boston likes to get out in transition and score, but that only can happen if they are playing consistent defense and getting rebounds. Good luck with a that last point. The Kings have had a slew of problems all year, but rebounding the ball isn't one of them. The C's are starting to show some signs of improvement on the boards, but they remain dead-last in rebounding this season with 46.5 per game. Meanwhile, the Kings are the NBA's 11th-best rebounding team at 51.4 per game.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston once again had a rough night on the boards, as the Kings out-rebounded them, 45-28. It was the fifth time since returning from the all-star break that an opponent has out-rebounded them by double-digit rebounds.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Kevin Garnett vs. DeMarcus Cousins: This will be a tough matchup for Garnett defensively because of Cousins' size (6-11, 270) and strength. It wouldn't be that big a shock if Garnett is matched up with Sacramento's Jason Thompson at the start of the game. Still, Garnett has shown the ability to get the job done most nights regardless of who is playing center for the opposition. "I don't think there's a big difference in those positions," said Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, who added that Brandon Bass will guard the bulkier frontcourt player some nights.

WHAT WE SAW: Garnett certainly got into Cousins' head a little bit, but it didn't matter. Cousins is that good. Really. He had 20 points and seven rebounds, displaying the kind of game that if he can keep his head on straight - and that's a big 'if' - he could easily develop into one of the top two or three centers in the NBA. "He's crafty. He's better," said Garnett, who had 10 points and nine rebounds. "His antics and all the things that come with it, is just part of the game."

PLAYER TO WATCH: One player who has come on of late and provided a huge lift for the Celtics, has been Greg Stiemsma. The 7-foot rookie has been surprisingly effective coming off the bench. In addition to being a defensive presence, he's also getting more chances to score around the basket and from the perimeter. "In the last three games, Stiemsma has started playing well again," said Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations. "He's sort of back in his rhythm. He's had three decent games in a row."

WHAT WE SAW: Stiemsma had some moments early on, but it was clear that he and the rest of the Celtics bigs had no answer for Cousins. In addition to his scoring, he also handed out four assists. Stiemsma played about 16 minutes and finished with zero points, but he grabbed four rebounds and blocked three shots.

STAT TO TRACK: You won't find too many matchups pitting two teams against each other that are at such extremes when it comes to ball movement. The Celtics average 23.3 assist per game which ranks third in the NBA. The Kings are not as fortunate. They average 18 assists per game, which ranks dead-last in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: The ball was moving well all game for the Kings, who had 29 assists on 46 made field goals. The C's weren't too shabby in this area, with 25 assists on 36 made baskets.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is trading for Paul George worth the risk?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is trading for Paul George worth the risk?

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0:41 - Michael Holley, Kayce Smith and Tom Giles recap their thoughts on drafting Jayson Tatum and trade rumors involving the Celtics.

6:21 - Ian Thomsen joins BST to discuss if it would be worth trading for Paul George as a one-year rental and if there would be a chance he could still around long-term if traded to Boston.

11:13 - Evan Drellich joins BST to talk about Rick Porcello’s outing, the Red Sox offense coming to life, and Doug Fister being claimed by the Red Sox. 

15:10 - Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely look back at the Celtics/Nets trade, what the assets have turned into, and if Danny Ainge has done a good job turning those assets into players. 

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

CHICAGO – As opening nights go at the NHL Draft, Friday night was a bit of a ho-hum affair for the Boston Bruins at the United Center home of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Bruins went the safe route by drafting a smooth, defensive-minded defenseman with the 18th overall pick when they selected Finnish product Urho Vaakenainen, and in doing so left more dynamic forwards like Kristian Vesalainen and Kailer Yamamoto still on the draft board for other teams to claim as their own. It was a bit of a curious choice given how many defensemen the Bruins already have in the prospect pipeline, but the lack of strength in the draft class seemed to lead teams to carve their own paths looking for players.

MORE: Bruins select defenseman Urho Vaakanainen with No. 18 pick

The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder clearly has miles to go offensively despite his smooth skating and solid passing skills, but there’s also a consideration that the teenager has been playing in the men’s league in Finland for the last couple of seasons. It makes things a little more difficult to project for the Finn D-man, but the Bruins believe there is some upside to his offensive game given the skills, the hockey IQ and the considerable confidence that the player has in his own game.

“His gap control and skating ability are really good. He’s obviously played in the Finnish Elite League at a very young age for one and a half years now and he’s played on the big stage at the world juniors. We feel like there’s a lot of upside for a 200-foot player that gets back on pucks, and then can transition them back out. Being able to cover ice is an important part of the game, and it continues to evolve in that direction,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, who indicated Vaakenainen will play in North America in 2018-19 after fulfilling his contractual obligations in Finland. “We tracked what he did on offense at the junior league level prior to him jumping to the elite league, and it lines up pretty well with other elite players that made the jump to that level.

“It’s a valid question and whether he gets put into those [offensive] situations this year is what we’re excited about with his [Finnish] team moving forward.”

While Vaakenainen sounded surprised the Bruins selected him after only a single meeting at the NHL scouting combine, Sweeney said that Boston’s head scout in Finland has enough history with the family to vouch for the kid’s makeup.

So while it’s far from a sexy pick and the Bruins could have tried to hit a home run with an 18th overall selection in a mediocre draft, the B’s will also get some time before anybody is ready to label the Finnish blueliner a boom or a bust.

The rest of the draft night didn’t add up to much for the B’s, however. They made the selection of Vaakenainen after strongly considering dropping down in the first round, and in doing so lost one of the better trade chips in the form of their 2017 first round pick. There were discussions with Minnesota about Marco Scandella and a few trade feelers to other clubs that might listen on a D-man, but the Bruins now have to hit the reset button on trade discussions for left-shot defensemen or top-6 left wings.

Perhaps Scandella’s $4 million per season salary was an issue for the Bruins, or maybe the Bruins didn’t want to give up their first round pick for a 27-year-old D-man coming off a so-so season with the Wild. Either way, there wasn’t enough momentum for the Bruins to get a trade done with a bevy of defensemen rumored to be available if the offer is good enough.

“I was on the record saying that we’d be offering our first round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to go through with it, so we went ahead with a player we wanted with our own pick. We continue to build what we think is a good group of guys moving forward.

“There are a couple of areas we’d like to address and get better. We’re trying to help our team currently. Certainly Brandon [Carlo] jumped into our lineup and we hope Charlie [McAvoy] will carry over what he did, and we have other players that will push. We have six returning defensemen we feel good about and we’ll certainly push from underneath, but it’s an area we’ll continue to address. We have some forwards that we also hope will come online, but we’ll never stop exploring and trying to improve our club.”

So let’s sum it all up after a week of additions and subtractions from the Original Six organization: The Bruins added a decidedly vanilla defenseman in the first round of the NHL Draft that might be a simple stay-at-home guy, and they weren’t able to muster any kind of deals for a D-man or winger to enhance the NHL roster. On the other hand, they didn’t give up much over the week as well and they didn’t do much at all to harm a solid roster that looked like they were finally on the right track pushing into the playoffs last season.

The Bruins could be in store for an action-packed Day Two of the draft on Saturday full of promising prospects and bountiful trades, but it sure feels like the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago isn’t going to be a very memorable one for the Black and Gold.