at ARCO Arena, Sacramento, 10 p.m. | CSN, WEEI (850 AM)
GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)
With Sacramento playing without star guard Tyreke Evans (sprained ankle), the Kings didn't have much luck guarding Boston's shooters when it visited TD Garden on Jan. 12. The Celtics shot 52.1 percent overall -- hitting a season-high 12 of 20 3-pointers -- in a 119-95 rout, their seventh consecutive win in the series.
The Kings, however, seem to be making some defensive adjustments that weren't there when they saw the Celtics three weeks ago. They've allowed an average of 96.9 points in going 4-5 in their last nine games, 6.3 points fewer than they allowed in their first 36 games.
That improved defense has paid off as Sacramento has won consecutive games for the first time since Oct. 30-Nov. 1. The Kings held the Lakers to 41.3 percent shooting in a 100-95 road win Friday, then limited New Orleans to 43.2 percent in a 102-96 home victory Saturday.
"We've shown great strides in both focus and poise," coach Paul Westphal said. "We had some hard knocks early in the season, helping us deal with the bumps in the road."
If Sacramento plans on knocking off a third straight stellar opponent, it'll likely need DeMarcus Cousins to keep producing. The rookie center had 27 points against the Lakers, then had 25 points, 12 boards and a season-high seven assists versus the Hornets.
"[Cousins] is intelligent, he learns," Westphal said. "He's learning what works and what doesn't. He's changed some habits offensively."
The Kings will have Evans back to deal with Rajon Rondo in this meeting, but Cousins might have to do some extra work in the paint. Power forward Jason Thompson left Saturday's win with a sprained ankle and was in a walking boot after the game, leaving his status for Tuesday in doubt.
Read the full preview HERE.
FORSBERG'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH
Groundhog Day: It'll be Feb. 2 on the East Coast by the time the Celtics and Kings wrap up and Boston would be well served to avoid an all-too-familiar letdown against a sub-.500 team. Fortunately for the visitors, they had a day off following Sunday's emotional triumph over the Lakers and, with another two-day break looming after Tuesday's game, there's no real excuse for not bringing high energy. Need more motivation? Rapping up this four-game road trip at 3-1 simply sounds better than 2-2, and a daunting February home slate awaits.
Bow to the Kings: With back-to-back wins over the Hornets and Lakers, the Kings enter with a little momentum of their own that ought to have the Celtics' antennae up. Here's one thing the Celtics need to exploit: Even in those wins, the Kings remain dreadful in the mid-range game and are shooting a mere 36.3 percent there this season (second worst in the NBA, ahead of only the Clippers). Boston thrives on forcing teams to settle for those 16- to 23-foot jumpers.
Which Rondo appears?: Will the Celtics get the Rajon Rondo that struggled through the first 10 quarters of this road trip, or the Rondo that produced 15 assists and spearheaded the Boston offense in the second half of Sunday's win over L.A.? The Kings actually rank in the top 10 in the NBA in opponent's assist rate (a measure of possessions that end in an assist) and one of their keys will surely be limiting the damage that Rondo does as a distributor.