Ford Keys to the Game: Celtics 95, Kings 90
Celtics 95, Kings 90
The Celtics came out of the gates playing inspired basketball against the Sacramento Kings in their final game of a West Coast trip, and that play led to a 27-20 lead after the first quarter. Sacramento’s offense was dismantled, committing eight turnovers and shooting only 28.6 percent from the floor in the opening frame.
The second quarter was a different story, as Boston’s bench came in and played some brutal basketball that stirred memories of the team’s poor performance in Phoenix on Friday night. Boston wound up heading into halftime trailing by nine thanks to the underwhelming play of the Celtics’ group of reserves.
It would have been easy for the C’s to lay down in the final game of a difficult trip, but that’s not what this group does. The starters came out in the third quarter and restored the team to its accustomed level of play and rocked the Kings out of their comfort zone.
Boston began the second half by forcing the Kings into two consecutive turnovers, both of which led to easy baskets for the C’s at the other end. Shaquille O’Neal got things started with a dunk off of a perfect dish from Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo followed with a layup to cut Sacramento’s lead down to five.
Kings head coach Paul Westphal whistled for an immediate timeout with the hope of halting the Celtics’ momentum, but there was nothing stopping this Eastern Conference-leading train. The C’s continued to dominate the Kings for the remainder of the third while Doc Rivers left his starters in for nearly the entire period. The Celtics did not substitute any players in until only 1:49 remained in the quarter, when Glen Davis and Nate Robinson replaced Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
By the time the quarter came to a close, the C’s had turned a nine-point halftime deficit into a three-point lead, at 74-71. Six Celtics scored in the period while Boston dished out seven assists.
And so we headed into the fourth quarter with a tone eerily similar to that of the second quarter: Boston’s starters had dominated Sacramento’s for nearly an entire period, and now it was time for the reserves to continue the run. Boston’s bench didn’t capitalize on such a tone in their first opportunity of the night, but it sure did so in the fourth quarter.
Four reserves began the final period alongside Rajon Rondo and that group was able to notch the first four points of the quarter. Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis put home back-to-back layups, both of which were assisted by Rondo, to quickly bump Boston’s lead up to seven and Rondo’s assist total up to 10. The group was able to maintain a lead for the first few minutes of the quarter until Rivers felt comfortable going back to his starters.
With the C’s trailing by nine at halftime and needing to stage a comeback in the fourth, Rivers allowed his starters to rack up a ton of minutes before the final quarter even began. All of the starters were on pace to surpass their season average in minutes, and Pierce was knocking on the 30-minute mark before the fourth quarter kicked off.
That fact proves the importance of Boston’s bench play to begin the fourth. Without solid minutes from Nate Robinson, Glen Davis, Kendrick Perkins and Marquis Daniels, Rivers would have had to go back to his starters much earlier than anticipated and they likely would have been winded as the game came to a close. Instead, Rivers was able to wait off until the 8:50 mark of the fourth to begin trickling his starters back into the lineup. That’s when Ray Allen returned to the court, in place of Rondo, and Pierce and Kevin Garnett didn’t return until the 6:44 mark.
The starters, alongside Robinson, who played point guard in place of Rondo down the stretch, closed out the game and wound up jumping ahead of the Kings by nine points on numerous occasions. Robinson’s defense was key to the team's success down the stretch and allowed Rivers to rest Rondo for the final 8:50 of the game. Robinson accounted for three steals in the fourth quarter alone.
Tonight’s game was all about the Celtics starters having the big quarters and the reserves holding strong during their time on the court. The bench was unable to make that happen in its first attempt, but when it mattered the reserves came up huge in the most important quarter of the game. As a result, the C’s were able to close out this four-game West Coast trip with a 3-1 record by knocking off the Kings, 95-90.
Key Box Score Line
Rajon Rondo was missing in action during the first half of Boston’s game against the Lakers Sunday afternoon, and as a result the Celtics trailed that game at halftime. When he came out and dished 15 assists in the second half of the game, Boston dominated Los Angeles and wound up blowing the Lakers out on their home court.
That trend must have hit something in Rondo's head and stuck during Boston's day off on Monday, because he came out in tonight’s game with the most aggression he has shown in quite some time.
From the opening tip until he left the court for the final time with 8:50 remaining in the fourth quarter, Rondo dictated the pace of this contest by getting out on the break after every missed shot or turnover by the Kings. Many of the transition baskets he initiated resulted in assists, but some resulted in his own baskets, too.
Rondo was the only player in the game to record a double-double with his 17 points and 10 assists. He set his teammates up perfectly all night long and had Sacramento on its heels with his consistent effort to drive into the paint and get to the basket. Most of his points came off of those drives, but he dropped in a couple of solid jump shots as well. Boston’s point guard was also able to make all three of his free throw attempts and finished with four steals on the night.
When Rondo is in an aggressive state on the floor, the Boston Celtics are nearly unbeatable. He displayed that attack mode tonight during his 31 minutes of action, and it’s no coincidence that the C’s wound up adding another notch to their win total as well.
Box Score Nuggets
- Ray Allen scored a game-high 22 points, including four 3-pointers. He is now nine 3s shy of breaking Reggie Miller's record for all-time 3-pointers.
- Kendrick Perkins, coming off the bench, led the game with 10 rebounds. He also scored eight points.
- Sacramento committed 23 turnovers that led to 25 Boston points.
- Boston shot 15-of-17 from the free-throw line. Paul Pierce and Shaquille O'Neal were the only C's to miss an attempt, as they both shot 1-of-2 from the line.
- Kevin Garnett shot 6-of-6 from the line.
- Sacramento blocked 12 of Boston's shots, highlighted by five blocks from Samuel Dalembert.
- Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins each scored 20 points to lead the Kings.
- Rajon Rondo recorded the only double-double of the game with 17 points and 10 assists.
- No player outside of Rondo dished out more than six assists.
- The Celtics grabbed 14 steals in the game, including five from Nate Robinson and four from Rondo.
- The Kings finished with 10 steals but did not have any player with more than three.
- Boston outrebounded Sacramento 43-36.
- Glen Davis poured in 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting in just 24:14 of playing time.
- Both teams attempted 11 3-pointers. Sacramento made six of their attempts while Boston made four, all of which came from Allen.
- Four of Boston's starters (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O'Neal and Rondo) each committed at least three turnovers.
Quote of the Night
Doc Rivers on the first half of the game: "I was upset at halftime because I thought, coming off the game Sunday, you’re worried about adjusting to the emotional up and down of a season. Our first team did great, and then the second team came in and nearly robbed the spirit from the team."