Kings-Celtics preview: Cousins, Sullinger meet again

Kings-Celtics preview: Cousins, Sullinger meet again
February 7, 2014, 9:00 am
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BOSTON — DeMarcus Cousins is immature. He's too moody. He is a troubled but talented baller.

Jared Sullinger will be the first to co-sign on Cousins' impressive basketball skills.

But all the other stuff?

That's not the player that Sullinger knows, a player that he has battled against for years on the AAU circuit as Sullinger's All-Ohio Reds squad dominated the summer circuit which at times resulted in facing Cousins' Birmingham (Ala.) Storm team.

Facing Cousins has always been a challenge for Sullinger, and he expects more of the same when the two square off tonight.

"DeMarcus is a special, special kind of player," Sullinger said. "He can put it on the floor, he's big, he's wide and he's very skilled."

In other words, he's a slightly older, bigger version of Sullinger.

That's why seeing the two of them face off will be one of the better one-on-one matchups Celtics fans will see this season.

"It's gonna be a good, tough physical ... both are physical, both rebound well, play good on the block, use their body very well," said Boston's Gerald Wallace. "They're not very athletic as far as jumping but they know how to use their body and positioning. It'll be an interesting matchup."

While most would agree that the two bring similar skills to the basketball court, there's a stark contrast in how each is viewed in NBA circles.

Sullinger has heard a lot of the negative talk and perceptions centered around Cousins and his actions both on and off the court.

"He's a good guy," Sullinger said. "I think people, they misjudge him because he plays with so much passion. I don't think he's immature. I think he has an old school mentality that people are not used to seeing in the NBA."

Earlier this season, Cousins refused to let teammate Isaiah Thomas shake hands with Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul after the Clippers beat the Kings.

Sacramento lost to the Clippers last week and Los Angeles' J.J. Redick tried to shake hands with him, but Cousins kept going.

And then there was Cousins calling Chicago's Mike Dunleavy a "clown" earlier this week after the Kings beat the Bulls by 29 points.

In the game, the two were tangled up which definitely bothered Cousins. The two had run-ins previously when Dunleavy played for the Milwaukee Bucks.

When word of Cousins' comments got back to Dunleavy, he told reporters, "That's the epitome of the pot calling the kettle black. But honestly I've never been called that before. I guess there's a first time for everything. I don't have much to say about him or that."

Regardless, Cousins is a player that the Celtics will have to try and contain if they are to extend their winning streak to three in a row.

Here are some other keys to tonight's game:

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Getting defensive stops and rebounds will be huge for the Celtics as they hope to get out and run at a pace similar to the one they had in their 114-108 win over Philadelphia. In that game, Boston's pace (points per 100 possessions) for the game was a season-high 103.66.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jeff Green vs Rudy Gay

Green should not be expected to have a huge scoring night, not when dealing with Rudy Gay who is one of the more explosive scorers in the NBA. Still, Green has to make Gay work defensively and if Rajon Rondo plays (he didn't practice on Thursday) you can bet he will try and get Green going early.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Jerryd Bayless is getting a shot as the team's backup point guard now, a role that takes on even more significance considering the uncertain status of the starting backcourt, Avery Bradley (right ankle) and Rajon Rondo (rest). Bayless has done a decent job of running the team when given an opportunity, but his play and fluidity with this team remains very much a work in progress.

STAT TO TRACK: Holding Sacramento to less than 100 points has been an almost sure-fire way of beating the Kings this season. Sacramento has had 18 games this season in which they were held to less than 100 points. All but two ended with a loss.