Kings (10-36) at Celtics (37-9)
Scoring: Kings 13th (99.1), Celtics 10th (101.1).
Shooting: Kings tied for 22nd (44.6 percent), Celtics second (48.2).
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (108), Celtics second (91.3).
Shooting defense: Kings 29th (47.8 percent), Celtics first (42.2).
Rebound differential: Kings 29th (minus-4.5), Celtics first (plus-5.4).
The links: Celtics coverage in the Boston Herald and Boston Globe.
The almanac: On this date in 1980, Red Holzman of the Knicks joined Red Auerbach as the only coaches to win 600 games. On this date in 1985, Bill Fitch of the Rockets became the sixth coach to win 600 games. On this date in 1988, Michael Adams of the Nuggets began a streak of 79 consecutive games with a three-pointer, a run that stretched over two seasons. Dana Barros later pushed the record to 89 games in a row.
Scoreboard watching 2: The Rockets have reached a very soft spot of the schedule with your other first-round pick in the balance, a run of 10 games over the next three-plus weeks against 10 opponents with a combined .393 winning percentage. Only the Mavericks are better than .500. Only three, the Mavs plus the 76ers and Bucks in the East, would qualify if the playoffs opened today, and Milwaukee is dangling after losing Michael Redd for the season.
Plus, Yao Ming is scheduled to return to the Houston lineup after missing two games with a sore knee. And maybe Ron Artest will play tonight as well. Or maybe he won't. Artest told cbssports.com an ankle injury could sideline him until after the All-Star break, nearly three weeks, and his agent told the Houston Chronicle that Ron-Ron should be available tonight. An Artest contradiction. Imagine the surprise.
The Rockets have the ninth-best record, or the 22nd pick in the draft, the choice that belongs to the Kings by virtue of the Artest trade that already delivered Bobby Jackson and Donte Greene to Sacramento. That standing could obviously fluctuate wildly -- Houston is three games out of the fifth-best record and closer to dropping into the lottery -- but there's no denying this is a chance to hurt the Kings in June.
- Tonight -- vs. 76ers, with a 21-22 record and seventh in the East.
- Saturday -- vs. Warriors, 14-31.
- Tuesday -- vs. Bulls, 18-27.
- Feb. 4 -- at Grizzlies, 11-33.
- Feb. 7 -- vs. Timberwolves, 16-27.
- Feb. 9 -- at Bucks, 22-26 and eighth in the East.
- Feb. 11 -- vs. Kings, 10-36.
- Feb. 17 -- vs. Nets, 20-25.
- Feb. 20 -- vs. Mavericks, 25-19 and eighth in the West.
- Feb. 22 -- vs. Bobcats, 19-26.
It'll take something really dramatic, good or bad, to shake Sacramento from the current range of picking in the early-to-mid 20s. Maybe late-20s. At that late stage of the first-round, there's a lot of coin tosses going on in draft rooms anyway, team need and GM preferences as much as the actual talent of a prospect. The difference between No. 22 and, say, No. 25 could be miniscule and certainly less than the three spots of No. 2 compared to No. 5.
But between 18 or 19 and 26 or 27? You're getting into talent-level disparity. The next 10 games, wrapped around the All-Star break, will give some indications.