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Preview: Celtics vs. Kings

02.16.10 at 10:12 am ET

Taking a much-needed break from the trade deadline rumors the Celtics return to the court Tuesday night to play the Kings… who happen to employ one of the few names actually linked to a Ray Allen trade; Kevin Martin. Obviously all eyes will be on the two shooting guards this evening, if for no other reason than idle curiosity.

Even if Danny Ainge was somehow able to swing major trade (which doesn’t seem likely) the Celtics have problems that only they can fix. They don’t rebound very well. They turn the ball over too much and they don’t shoot as well from 3-point range as they have in the past.

All those things are symptoms of other things. Their defense has allowed too much dribble penetration, which has led to defensive breakdowns and clear alleys for opponents to hit the glass. The offense has gone stagnant too often, leading to bad passes and forced shots.

These have in turn been referred to as “issues” and “agendas,” which is way more exciting and intriguing then simply noting that they are not playing well. The question, then, for the Celtics in the final 32 games is: Are their breakdowns mental or are they physical? They continue to insist that they are mental and that they can fix their problems. Now they have to prove it.

CELTICS (32-18, 5-5 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.7

Points Allowed: 93.7

Differential: +5.0 (4th)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.2 (13th)

Defensive Efficiency: 101.8 (1st)

Pace: 91.5 (23rd)

Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Injuries: None.

KINGS (18-34, 3-7 last 10)

Points Per Game: 102.0

Points Allowed: 105.8

Differential: -3.8 (22nd)

Offensive Efficiency: 106.5 (17th)

Defensive Efficiency: 110.5 (26th)

Pace: 94.6 (6th)

Likely Starters: Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin, Donte Greene, Omri Casspi, Spencer Hawes

Injuries: Francisco Garcia (Wrist)

Key Matchup: Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace vs. Jon Brockman and Jason Thompson

The Kings don’t do very many things well, but one thing they do as well as anyone is hit the offensive glass. The Celtics, as we all know, don’t do a good job of keeping teams off the boards. For all the deserved attention paid to Sacramento rookies Evans and Casspi, Mr. Jon Brockman has acquitted himself very well for a second round pick. According to rate statistics, Brockman hits the offensive glass more frequently than any player in the league (he gets six per 36 minutes). Brockman is a 6-foot-7, 255-pound bull, while Thompson is slighter, but taller and quicker off the floor. It will be up to Davis and Wallace to keep them in check.

The Celtics in a Paragraph: As mentioned in the intro, it’s now prove-it time for the Celtics and the schedule is going to do them no favors. They begin the unofficial second half of the season with a treacherous four-game west coast swing and they will play 17 games in March. They have put themselves in this position, whether it’s because of injuries or indifferent play, and now they have to dig themselves out.

The Kings in a Paragraph: The reason Martin may be available at all is because of Tyreke Evans. The rookie is averaging over 20 points and right around five rebounds and five assists per game. With Martin in the lineup, Evans is being force-fed minutes at the point, but his true position may be off the ball. The Kings say they are willing to wait to see how this plays out, but the early returns have not been strong. The Kings are only 4-16 in games that Martin has played this season and since his return from a wrist injury they have won only three of 15 games. Is that enough of a sample size for Kings president Geoff Petrie to pull the trigger, and if it is, do the Celtics have enough to get Martin back in a trade? We’ll know by Thursday.

What to Watch For: Sacramento plays fast, shoots a lot of 3’s and hits the offensive glass. The Kings do not, however, play a lot of defense. Expect a high-scoring game and keep an eye on those two worrisome numbers for the Celtics: turnovers and offensive rebounds.

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