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W2W4: Celtics vs. Kings (Game 45 of 82)

1/29/2013

Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

Paul Pierce puts up a shot against the Kings at TD Garden.The Boston Celtics (21-23, 14-9 home) hosts the Sacramento Kings (17-29, 5-17 away) on Wednesday night at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:

* MOVING ON WITHOUT RONDO: After a couple days to process the news that point guard Rajon Rondo has been lost for the remainder of the season due to an ACL tear, the Celtics begin a rather fascinating stretch in which they must determine whether they are still contenders (something that was in question even with Rondo as Boston stumbled through the first half of the season). It should be interesting to watch how the four-guard rotation of Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, and Leandro Barbosa plays out given that each prefers to play off the ball. Can Boston's offense reinvent itself without its only pure ball-handler?

* SYNERGY SNAPSHOT: The Kings rank 19th in the league averaging 0.904 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports data. But Sacramento thrives with two play types: Spot-up shooting (6th overall) and pick-and-roll ball-handler (9th). Boston found that out the hard way the last time the two teams met as Isaiah Thomas routinely scorched Rondo (who was playing with a bum hip). Thomas and Marcus Thornton need to be Boston's top focuses on Wednesday night. Defensively, the Kings are 29th overall (0.959 points per play). Beyond defending the post, Sacramento struggles on that end of the floor. DeMarcus Cousins essentially tops the team defensively despite standing in the mere 62nd percentile among all league players. Otherwise, the Kings are an eyesore for individual defensive numbers among top rotation players.

* REVENGE IN MIND?: The Kings throttled Boston by 22 points in the two teams' first meeting in Sacramento last month. That night featured a triple-double by Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins (12 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) over 31 minutes. Cousins has come back to Earth a bit lately and that includes him being benched for the fourth quarter of Monday's game in Washington. Can the Celtics turn the tables? If Cousins is out of the doghouse, part of the key might be containing his production, particularly after Jared Sullinger shuffled into the first-unit frontcourt, but coach Doc Rivers must reconfigure his big-man rotations overall.

* DON'T LOOK BACK IN ANGER: While the Celtics are still coming to grips with the loss of Rondo, Rivers said his team has no choice but to trudge forward with the group he's got. "It set in before the Miami game. As a coach you focus on Miami and you try to win that game and now we focus on Sacramento," said Rivers. "I don't sit down and whine a lot. No one's going to hear it or listen -- clearly not the other teams. But I do think we can be really good and I think we'll be a little different, but I think we can be really good." With the trade deadline looming in about three weeks, it's on the Celtics to immediately show this remaining core can still be competitive with the conference elite in order to keep this team intact beyond Feb. 21.