Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Sacramento Kings

Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Sacramento Kings

By A. Sherrod Blakely

BOSTON The Boston Celtics will look to snap a two-game losing streak tonight against the Sacramento Kings, one of the worst teams in the NBA.

As much as the Celtics talk about the importance of getting off to a good start, finishing teams off has been an even bigger problem lately.

The C's have been outscored in the second half of each of their last three games, the longest such stretch for the Celtics this season.

Sacramento's best shot at knocking off the C's is simply to do what they do best, even better.

We're talking about crashing the offensive boards, one of the few things Sacramento does significantly better than the Celtics.

The Kings average 13.2 offensive rebounds per game, the third-best mark in the league. Sacramento has converted those second-chance opportunities into 16.1 second-chance points per game, the second-highest mark in the NBA this season.

Of course, the big news - aside from the several inches of snow that might deter a few folks from trekking to the TD Garden tonight - is the potential return of Kevin Garnett.

He has missed the C's last seven games, with Boston going a pedestrian 4-3 without him.

Garnett's absence following the right calf strain injury suffered at Detroit on Dec. 29, was expected to be for two weeks which would have meant his return to action would be today.

However, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said following Tuesday's practice that Garnett, who did not participate in any of the contact drills, was doubtful for tonight.

"He's just not ready yet," Rivers said. "He's close, very close."

The delayed return of Garnett will surely get the Celtics fanbase reminiscing about how a few games off two years ago, turned into Garnett missing 25 regular season games and the entire playoffs due to a right knee injury.

While Rivers doesn't anticipate Garnett playing tonight, he wouldn't totally rule him out, either.

"He could play tomorrow," Rivers said. "I don't think he will, but there's a chance."

He's not the only superstar that might return to action tonight.

Kings second-year star Tyreke Evans is questionable for tonight's game after missing the previous two with a left ankle sprain.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

Celtics' team plane receives bomb threat


Celtics' team plane receives bomb threat

BOSTON -- There was a bomb threat to the Boston Celtics’ team plane to Oklahoma City on Saturday afternoon, but no one was injured.

The incident will be investigated by NBA security which will work in conjunction with the FBI on this matter which was one of several hoaxes called into airports across the country on Saturday.

News of the bomb threat was first known when Celtics forward Jae Crowder posted an Instagram photo showing players departing the plane with the caption, “BOMB THREAT ON US”.

Celtics officials declined to comment on the matter and instead referred all bomb threat-related questions to the league office.

Messages to the league office were not immediately returned.

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

BOSTON – When it comes to winning basketball, keep it moving – the ball that is – has become a staple of the Celtics this season. 
And lately they’ve had to do it without Isaiah Thomas, the team’s leading scorer at 26 points per game as well as their top assists guy (6.2) who will miss hish third game in a row Sunday in Oklahoma City because of a right groin injury.
The Celtics have split their first two games without Thomas, with the most recent being a 101-94 home loss to Toronto on Friday.
When it comes to this team and ball movement, fans are just as divided when it pertains to whether the Celtics move the ball better without the high-scoring Thomas in the lineup. 
Regardless of what fans think they know about this team and how they move the ball, the numbers paint a very clear picture that this team’s ball movement is among the best in the NBA, with or without Thomas in the lineup. 

And that will be important on Sunday against an Oklahoma City team that doesn’t rely on the ball swinging from one side of the floor to the other, nearly as much as the Celtics. 
The Thunder, led by MVP candidate Russell Westbrook, are dead-last in the NBA when it comes to passes made per game (267.1). 
Meanwhile, the Celtics are at the opposite end of the passing game spectrum, averaging 331.7 passes per game, which is second in the NBA (Philadelphia, 354.3).
And in the two games without Thomas, Boston has averaged 347.0 passes per game, which ranks second in the NBA in that period of time. 
In addition to missing his points and assists, the Celtics must also find ways to make plays in filling the void left by a player who has the ball in his hands a lot of the time. 
Thomas’ usage percentage (percentage of plays used by a player while he’s on the floor) of 32.9 percent ranks seventh in the NBA, ahead of notable stars such as San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard (30.9 percent), Portland’s Damian Lillard (30.8 percent), New York’s Carmelo Anthony (29.5 percent), as well as Cleveland’s LeBron James (29 percent) and Golden State’s back-to-back NBA MVP Stephen Curry (28.2 percent).
So, considering how involved Thomas has been in the team’s offense, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the numbers in terms of passing and ball movement are better without him than they are when he’s on the floor playing. 
What should be surprising is that the gap statistically without him, isn’t greater. 
Boston has been a top five team when it comes to assists this season, currently third in the league with 24.7 assists per game. In the past two games without Thomas, the Celtics’ assists numbers have risen to 26.5 per game, but that only ranks fifth in the league in that span.
When it comes to potential assists and secondary assists (a.k.a. the “hockey” assist), Boston’s numbers have improved slightly without Thomas as well, but in each category Boston is ranked second in the league. 
And that ranking is with, and without Thomas in the lineup. 
While it’s not clear if Thomas knows just how close the numbers in terms of ball movement are with and without him playing, he is acutely aware that there are some who believe they are a better team in terms of keeping the ball moving without him.
“I can’t control that,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “At this point, I laugh about it. I know what I mean to my teammates. I know what I mean to this organization, to Brad Stevens.”