Celtics

Celtics-Kings preview: West Coast finale

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Celtics-Kings preview: West Coast finale

SACRAMENTO Doc Rivers isn't one to get too caught up in the Boston Celtics' schedule even when it clearly is to their disadvantage.

But after a lengthy road trip that has resulted in nothing but losses since coming out West, Rivers was more than a little perturbed that their last game on this trip -- tonight at Sacramento -- comes less than 24 hours later after playing Golden State.

Saturday's loss to Golden State had a 10:30 p.m. start time while tonight's game against Sacramento begins at 9 p.m.

"I do think it's a joke we're playing at 6 (p.m., local time)," Rivers said. "I saw that on the schedule, complained about it . . . obviously nothing changed. But to be playing in 22 12 hours, your last game of the trip, is a joke. That's an absolute joke. But it is what it is."

For Boston, it's one last opportunity to salvage what they can from a trip that has only reinforced their image as an up-and-down team.

A confidence-lifting win at Brooklyn on Christmas Day has been followed by a pair of blowout losses to up-and-coming Western Conference teams.

And the Kings (10-19), winners in five of their last six home games, are starting to play some of their best basketball of the season which only adds to what has been a challenging road trip for the Celtics.

Here are some keys to tonight's matchup as the Celtics seek to avoid dropping two games below .500 since they opened the season with a pair of losses.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: With the Celtics short-handed in the backcourt, the Kings will look to push the tempo as much as possible. Although it hasn't resulted in many wins this season, the Kings have been a decent team in terms of scoring in transition. They come into tonight's game averaging 15.3 fast-break points per game which ranks ninth in the league.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jason Terry vs Marcus Thornton. In the Celtics lone game against the Kings last season, Thornton lit them up for 36 points in one of the biggest Sacramento blowout wins (120-95) over the Celtics ever. With Rajon Rondo (right hipthigh) likely out for a second straight game, getting good shots for Terry will be challenging yet again for Boston.

PLAYER TO WATCH: DeMarcus Cousins is so talented, it's hard not to keep all eyes on him when he plays. But far too often it his temper and not his talent, that leaves an indelible impression on the game. If he sticks to the latter, the Celtics -- a team that has been rumored to have some interest in trading for him -- are going to be in for a long, long night.

STAT TO TRACK: In the last two games, Boston's three-point shooting defense has been horrible. The Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State each nailed a dozen 3s, something the C's had not allowed to happen in consecutive games since Seattle (now Oklahoma City) and Toronto did it in December of 2003 with 17 and 13 made threes, respectively.

Agent says Gordon Hayward is unlikely to return this season

Agent says Gordon Hayward is unlikely to return this season

Hopes that the Celtics would have Gordon Hayward back in the lineup later this year were dashed last night by Hayward's agent, Mark Bartelstein.

Hayward underwent surgery Wednesday night for a fractured and dislocated left tibia, and Celtics coach Brad Stevens had said earlier in the day that Hayward's prognosis would be better known after doctors saw the extent of the damage. When the operation was over, Bartelstein told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski not to expect Hayward to play again this season.

But there is good news:

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“We’re expecting this to be a full recovery,” Stevens had said earlier. “No timeline on it, but a full recovery.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics drop back-to-back games

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics drop back-to-back games

0:41 - Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their thoughts on Kyrie Irving’s struggles, not having Gordon Hayward, and the Celtics losing for the 2nd time in as many nights.

6:31 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins BST to discuss the message delivered by Hayward to the fans before the game, what was going on with Kyrie’s shot, and why they failed in stopping The Greek Freak.

10:33 - Albert Breer joins BST to preview the Falcons/Patriots Sunday night game and if Atlanta is in the middle of a Super Bowl hangover.

15:40 - In a new game called On The Clock, each person gets 40 seconds to rant on their selected subject including if Red Sox fans can root for the Yankees if the playoffs and how painful the Bruins season will be. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE