If the last-place Sacramento Kings didn’t face long enough odds of beating the defending NBA champions on the road, they’ve created a few more hurdles for themselves entering Wednesday’s visit to Boston to face the Celtics.
Having already lost to the Celtics by 45 last month, the Kings bring an 0-19 mark against Eastern Conference teams and a 1-16 record in their last 17 visits to TD Banknorth Garden, where Boston will look to extend its overall winning streak to nine.
Few matchups in the NBA would seem as one-sided on paper as Wednesday’s, with the Celtics playing a dominant ball and the defensively inept Kings having allowed an average of 115.5 points during their six-game losing streak.
Even when the Celtics were in the midst of a 2-7 slump, they won 108-63 at Sacramento on Dec. 28, matching their most-lopsided victory since 1970. The Kings made just 19 field goals in that game, their fewest in the shot-clock era.
“I’m embarrassed,” Sacramento guard Bobby Jackson said after that defeat. “I hope everybody else is embarrassed, too. That was just ridiculous the way we came out and competed tonight. I wouldn’t even say competed. We didn’t even show up.”
While the Kings (10-36) been more competitive since then, victories have been rare on the road and nonexistent against East opponents. They needed three overtimes to earn their only road win since Thanksgiving, 135-133 at Golden State on Jan. 14, and they’ve dropped the first three contests on their current four-game trip.
Losses at Milwaukee, Toronto and Cleveland dropped Sacramento to 0-19 against East teams this season. The Kings shot 50.0 percent from the field and got 35 points from Kevin Martin Tuesday against the Cavaliers, but still lost 117-110.
One night after facing the team with the top record in the East, Sacramento will take on the conference’s second-best club in Boston, where the Celtics are 70-9 including playoffs since acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen prior to last season.
The defending champions could currently be playing their best basketball of 2008-09, having responded to their midseason swoon with eight straight wins - the last six by double digits.
The Celtics (37-9) have set an authoritative tone early in nearly every game recently. After leading New Jersey and Phoenix by 30 points each at halftime on Jan. 17 and 19, respectively, they held a 29-10 edge after the first quarter of a 98-83 win at Miami last Wednesday.
They ended Orlando’s seven-game winning streak the following night, then routed Dallas on Sunday, leading 74-47 at the half en route to a 124-100 victory. Garnett, Allen and Eddie House each had 23 points against the Mavericks.
“I just think we’re playing together,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “In the 19-game winning streak (from Nov. 15-Dec. 23), we were winning games but in my opinion we weren’t playing Celtics basketball the way we established last year.”
The hallmark of the 2007-08 team was defense, and that trend has re-emerged lately. Boston’s opponents are averaging 86.8 points and shooting 41.2 percent from the field in the last six games. No team has had more trouble scoring against the Celtics than Sacramento, which has averaged 70.0 points and shot 36.9 percent in three losses since the beginning of last season.
Boston will play Wednesday’s game without reserve Brian Scalabrine, who will be sidelined for at least a week following his second concussion in three days, but backup guard Tony Allen could return after an 11-game absence due to an ankle injury.