Kings Fall to Celtics in Artestís Debut
Boston 84, Sacramento 74
BOSTON (Ticker), Jan. 27 -- Ron Artest clearly had an impact on the defense of the Sacramento Kings, whose offense and rebounding needs some work.
In their first game since acquiring Artest, the Kings struggled offensively and were manhandled on the boards in an ugly 84-74 loss to the Boston Celtics, who also received a solid contribution from their new addition.
Known for his stingy defense but more so for his problems off the court - including a brawl with fans in Detroit in November 2004 - Artest had requested a trade from the Pacers last month and subsequently was placed on the inactive list.
"I was just ready for anything," said Artest, who was booed during introductions and whenever he touched the ball. "I was just trying to do things to help the team win. We just fell a little short tonight."
Wearing No. 93 and starting at small forward, Artest opened by hitting his first three shots, including a 3-pointer just under two minutes into the contest for his first basket as a King.
"I was surprised," said Artest, who was playing for the first time since December 6. "I didn't expect to hit my first three. I felt good. Even earlier today, I felt good. I just have to do a little more adjusting to the game and it will come with more games and more practices."
However, Artest connected on just 2-of-11 shots thereafter and finished with 15 points, six rebounds and four steals in 31 incident-free minutes.
"(His conditioning) was much better than I thought," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "He got really tired. The second quarter, I probably played him too much during that stretch there. That's why I played him six-minute stints in the second half. That's what I'm going to have to do."
While Artest struggled offensively, his defense was as stout as ever. He pestered Paul Pierce into 7-of-16 shooting for just 18 points - seven below his average - and forced the All-Star swingman into a season high-tying seven turnovers.
"We didn't know whether he was going to be play or not," Adelman said. "As soon as I found out that there was a real good likelihood, I saw no reason not to start him. We don't have anyone to guard (Pierce) except Ron."
But Artest's defense was not enough as the Kings' woes on offense and the glass were just too severe.
Sacramento shot a respectable 9-of-19 in the first quarter but connected on just 14-of-56 thereafter to finish at a pitiful 30 percent for the game.
The Kings also committed 15 turnovers - including two by Artest - and were outrebounded, 53-31, in losing for the fourth time in five games.
"I don't know if that was the case," said Sacramento's Mike Bibby, when asked if the Kings were tired. "We just couldn't hit any shots. We shot 30 percent, I shot 2-of-14. We missed so many shots that we usually make. I feel if I do anything more than what I did, we win the game."
Artest's debut with the Kings overshadowed Wally Szczerbiak's solid first game with the Celtics. Acquired in a multi-player trade with Minnesota on Thursday, the former All-Star scored 10 points in 24 minutes off the bench, connecting on 4-of-7 shots from the field and 2-of-3 from the arc.
"I haven't even been able to stop to grab a bite to eat," Szczerbiak said. "My teammates made it easy for me. They helped me through the plays. Coach put me in the right spots. And I just played basketball the way I've always played it, like I was playing back home on Long Island with my buddies."
Szczerbiak's playing time came as a surprise as Celtics coach Doc Rivers said previously he had no intentions of playing his new acquisition in Friday's game.
"Honest to goodness," Rivers said. "The only reason I played him was he stared at me every freakin' timeout. I told one of the coaches that we've got to put this guy in the game or he's going to drive me nuts."
Rookie swingman Francisco Garcia brought Sacramento within 68-65 with a free throw with 9:55 remaining, but the Kings would not score again until Bibby's jumper with 3:52 to go.
In that stretch, Boston pushed its lead to 77-65 behind five points from Raef LaFrentz and four from Al Jefferson.
Expected to see more playing time following Thursday's trade, Jefferson finished with 13 points in 20 minutes and LaFrentz added 12 and 10 boards. Kendrick Perkins also had a strong game with 13, 11 and a career high-tying five blocks for the Celtics, who have won four of their last six games.