After recently coming up short against the Boston Celtics, the Sacramento Kings are looking to bring a better effort this time.
DeMarcus Cousins is expected to return as the Kings go for a third consecutive home victory over the Celtics on Saturday night.
Sacramento (18-36) was held to 35.6 percent shooting in a 99-89 loss at Boston on Feb. 7, dropping to 2-10 in the series since December 2007. Cousins went toe-to-toe with Jared Sullinger as both posted 31 points – a career high for Sullinger – and 16 rebounds.
"We have to play with a chip on our shoulder. When that jump ball goes off, there are no friends on the other sideline," Kings coach Mike Malone said. "Jared Sullinger had his way with us (and) we have an opportunity to pay him back, let him know that he’s not going to do that to us again in our building."
The Kings have earned back-to-back home victories over the Celtics, winning 120-95 and 118-96 in 2012. Isaiah Thomas led the way with 27 points, while Cousins added 12 to go with 10 boards and a career-best 10 assists in the second of those meetings.
Cousins should be back on the court after missing Wednesday’s 101-92 loss to Golden State with a hip injury. The Kings, losers in 11 of 14, were outscored 52-32 in the paint.
"His presence alone is going to help us," Thomas said of Cousins. "He’s a guy that demands double-teams, a guy that’s going to open it up for a lot people. … Whatever he can give us is going to be a plus. We need him."
While the Kings were rumored to be interested in Boston’s Rajon Rondo, they instead completed a few lesser trades before the deadline. Sacramento sent Marcus Thornton to Brooklyn for Jason Terry and Reggie Evans on Wednesday, then acquired Roger Mason Jr. from Miami for a heavily protected 2015 second-round draft pick and cash Thursday.
The moves are expected to open up playing time for rookies Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum, as well as Derrick Williams and Carl Landry. It’s unclear if Terry and Evans will be in uniform Saturday.
"For me, these (remaining) 28 games are really about our young guys," Malone said. "We have to see these guys play, and not in practice but in NBA games to see what they’re capable of doing so we can make decisions coming in the offseason."
The Celtics (19-37), meanwhile, are on the verge of a fourth straight defeat after falling 101-92 at the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday. Jeff Green and Brandon Bass had a combined 41 points for Boston, which was outscored 38-18 over the final 12 minutes.
Rondo dished out 11 assists but finished with just six points while shooting 2 of 12. The Celtics were held to 39.2 percent from the floor, going 4 of 22 from 3-point range.
"That 11-point lead was gone in a heartbeat," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "We’ve got to be able to respond to adversity better."
Rondo, who didn’t face the Kings earlier this month to rest as he worked his way back from knee surgery, is also likely to miss this game as Boston closes a back-to-back.
The Celtics have been outscored by an average of 13.2 points in dropping each of their 11 road games against Western Conference opponents. The Kings have won four of their last five home meetings versus the East.