After an uninspiring showing without Rajon Rondo, the Boston Celtics hope to have their point guard back for the finale of a four-game trip.
Rondo is expected to be a game-time decision Sunday night when the Celtics face a Sacramento Kings team that may have Tyreke Evans back in the starting lineup for the first time in two weeks.
Rondo was a late scratch for Saturday's game against Golden State because of a bruised right thigh and hip sustained in Thursday's 106-77 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. It was a similar result against the Warriors, as Boston (14-15) fell behind by as many as 22 in losing 101-83.
The offense struggled mightily without Rondo's direction, shooting a season-low 36.0 percent and going just 5 of 22 (22.7 percent) from 3-point range. Paul Pierce and Jason Terry were both brutal from the floor, as Pierce finished with 13 points on 4-of-20 shooting while Terry scored the same amount and hit 6 of 19.
Rondo's replacement in the starting lineup, Courtney Lee, had a team-high 18 points but had zero assists. Rondo averages 13.6 points and a league-best 11.7 assists.
The Celtics, who have lost six of eight to drop below .500 for the first time since they were 2-3 on Nov. 9, are 1-3 without Rondo this season.
"We got to keep working at this," said Kevin Garnett, who had six points and three rebounds. "This is where you start to see who's with you. This is when you see who really wants it, who really wants to get down and work and grind for it. We're about to find it out."
The Kings (10-19) have been without Evans for a majority of the last month, as he's missed the last six games and 11 of 15 because of an injured left knee. He believes he came back too soon before, but now feels he's ready to return and play at a high level.
He was averaging 21.0 points on 54.8 percent shooting along with 5.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists in the five games before getting hurt.
"I was playing (well before the injury)," Evans told the Kings' official website. "Hopefully, when I come back, I can pick it up and play the same way."
Sacramento is trying to build on Friday's wild 106-105 victory over New York, its third win in five games.
The Kings appeared well on their way to an easy victory, leading by 27 points in the second quarter and 22 halfway through the third, but things quickly fell apart and the Knicks stormed back to take a two-point lead late.
John Salmons was trapped in the corner with seconds remaining, but he found James Johnson at the top of the key and the reserve forward, who came in 0 for 11 from beyond the arc, knocked down a 3 as time expired.
"It was a broken play and we made something out of it," guard Isaiah Thomas said.
DeMarcus Cousins returned after being suspended for the previous two games for unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team following a verbal confrontation with coach Keith Smart. He finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds and stole a pass with 16 seconds left to set up the Kings' final possession.
Sacramento has a chance to win four straight home games for the first time since 2009, while the Celtics are 1-7 on the road this month.
The Kings earned a 120-95 victory over Boston last season in Sacramento, snapping an eight-game losing streak in the series. Marcus Thornton had 36 points, while Jason Thompson scored 21 and Cousins added 20.
The Associated Press News Service
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