SACRAMENTO, Calif. Lately, the Boston Celtics have managed to win games despite not playing their best. In those games, there was always a stretch of play when their defense took over.
But on Friday, the Celtics' defense could do nothing right as the Sacramento Kings pulled away for a surprisingly easy 120-95 win.
"We have to understand who we are," said Paul Pierce. "We're a defensive group. We tried to play their game, got caught in the run and gun instead of settling down, getting the ball to Kevin more on the inside, taking advantage of that; settling a lot for perimeter jumpers which allowed them to get out on the break and take advantage of their speed and quickness."
Kevin Garnett, your thoughts on the team's decisively lopsided loss?
"Probably like outside today," Garnett said. "Grey, muggy and slow."
Fortunately for the Celtics (23-20), they don't have to think about tonight's loss for too long, not with another road game at Denver Saturday night. Several factors contributed to the loss. Here's a look back at a few factors that were highlighted before the game, and how they actually played out.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Boston likes to get out in transition and score, but that only can happen if they are playing consistent defense and getting rebounds. Good luck with a that last point. The Kings have had a slew of problems all year, but rebounding the ball isn't one of them. The C's are starting to show some signs of improvement on the boards, but they remain dead-last in rebounding this season with 46.5 per game. Meanwhile, the Kings are the NBA's 11th-best rebounding team at 51.4 per game.
WHAT WE SAW: Boston once again had a rough night on the boards, as the Kings out-rebounded them, 45-28. It was the fifth time since returning from the all-star break that an opponent has out-rebounded them by double-digit rebounds.
MATCHUP TO WATCH - Kevin Garnett vs. DeMarcus Cousins: This will be a tough matchup for Garnett defensively because of Cousins' size (6-11, 270) and strength. It wouldn't be that big a shock if Garnett is matched up with Sacramento's Jason Thompson at the start of the game. Still, Garnett has shown the ability to get the job done most nights regardless of who is playing center for the opposition. "I don't think there's a big difference in those positions," said Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, who added that Brandon Bass will guard the bulkier frontcourt player some nights.
WHAT WE SAW: Garnett certainly got into Cousins' head a little bit, but it didn't matter. Cousins is that good. Really. He had 20 points and seven rebounds, displaying the kind of game that if he can keep his head on straight - and that's a big 'if' - he could easily develop into one of the top two or three centers in the NBA. "He's crafty. He's better," said Garnett, who had 10 points and nine rebounds. "His antics and all the things that come with it, is just part of the game."
PLAYER TO WATCH: One player who has come on of late and provided a huge lift for the Celtics, has been Greg Stiemsma. The 7-foot rookie has been surprisingly effective coming off the bench. In addition to being a defensive presence, he's also getting more chances to score around the basket and from the perimeter. "In the last three games, Stiemsma has started playing well again," said Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations. "He's sort of back in his rhythm. He's had three decent games in a row."
WHAT WE SAW: Stiemsma had some moments early on, but it was clear that he and the rest of the Celtics bigs had no answer for Cousins. In addition to his scoring, he also handed out four assists. Stiemsma played about 16 minutes and finished with zero points, but he grabbed four rebounds and blocked three shots.
STAT TO TRACK: You won't find too many matchups pitting two teams against each other that are at such extremes when it comes to ball movement. The Celtics average 23.3 assist per game which ranks third in the NBA. The Kings are not as fortunate. They average 18 assists per game, which ranks dead-last in the NBA.
WHAT WE SAW: The ball was moving well all game for the Kings, who had 29 assists on 46 made field goals. The C's weren't too shabby in this area, with 25 assists on 36 made baskets.