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Preview: Celtics-Kings

03.26.10 at 11:23 am ET

John Schumann of recently broke down the numbers and made an interesting observation about the Celtics that has generated much discussion around the Internet. Schumann’s main finding is that the Celtics are a poor second-half team, particularly in the third quarter. This was most clearly seen against Utah earlier this week when the Jazz rallied from a five-point halftime deficit and turned a Celtics lead into a blowout loss.

There are many conclusions one can draw from that bit of information, but what it really seems to boil down to is that the Celtics have done a poor job of executing after halftime. Whether it’s age, focus or some other factor, Schumann’s analysis helps bring this whole nebulous conversation about their struggles into sharper focus.

As the Celtics continue through the regular season pay close attention to their play after halftime during their final 11 games. That might help tell us if they are actually becoming a contender again.

KINGS (24-48 3-7 last 10)

Points Per Game: 100.4

Points Allowed: 104.5

Differential: -4.1 (24th)

Offensive Efficiency: 105.4 (21st)

Defensive Efficiency: 109.7 (23rd)

Pace: 94.2 (6th)

Likely Starters: Beno Udrih, Francisco Garcia, Donte Greene, Carl Landry, Spencer Hawes

Injuries: Tyreke Evans (Concussion), Jon Brockman (Knee)

CELTICS (46-25, 6-4 last 10)

Points Per Game: 99.0

Points Allowed: 94.4

Differential: +4.6 (8th)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.4 (14th)

Defensive Efficiency: 102.4 (1st)

Pace: 91.8 (20th)

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

Injuries: None.

Key Matchup: Kevin Garnett vs. Carl Landry

Landry was the key piece for the Kings in the Kevin Martin trade and in 18 games with Sacramento he has averaged 17 points a game. The older brother of Marcus, Carl Landry is a low-post scorer who is both efficient and effective. It will be interesting to see whether Garnett or Kendrick Perkins draws this particular assignment. If it’s Garnett, it will be a chance to see him apply his defensive acumen against an emerging Al-Star caliber player.

The Kings in a Paragraph: A debate is beginning to rage about this year’s Rookie of the Year race, which has focused on a trio of point guards: Brandon Jennings, Steph Curry and Tyreke Evans. The argument goes like this: Evans has the numbers, Jennings is on a playoff-bound team and Curry who stands out as ocean of sanity on an island of misfits. That Jennings should get votes because Andrew Bogut has become a legit center is dubious, but it’s how NBA awards voting logic works in many instances. The more interesting debate is between Evans and Curry since most observers are still not sure what to make of the former, while the latter appears to be fully-formed. The vote here would be for Evans, but the results will tell us more about the voters instincts than the relative worth of the players themselves.

The Celtics in a Paragraph: The most interesting subplot swirling around the Celtics these days is whether Tony Allen will replace Marquis Daniels in the rotation and how the bench will look once the playoffs start. Allen has made a strong case for more minutes with his play recently, but Daniels has a stronger track record and has earned the benefit of the doubt, at least for now. Having too many qualified players is never a bad thing, just ask last season’s Celtics, but this will be an interesting balancing act for Doc Rivers down the stretch.

What to Watch For: The Kings are coming off a loss to the Nets and are likely to be without Evans. The Celtics are trying to build momentum for the playoffs and are preparing to play four games against some of the best teams in the NBA. To quote, Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a trap.” Let’s see if the Celtics fall into it.

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