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Posted Feb 19 2007 12:30PM
Things may not be perfect for the Boston Celtics, but they're certainly better than they were a week ago.
After snapping a franchise-record 18-game losing streak, having Paul Pierce make a strong return from multiple injuries and watching Gerald Green win the NBA's slam dunk contest, the Celtics hope to ride that momentum when they open a five-game road trip against Sacramento on Tuesday.
Boston (13-38) finished the first half of the season with a 117-97 win over Milwaukee on Wednesday, the team's first victory since Jan. 5. Pierce, in his third game back after missing 24 with foot and elbow injuries, scored 32 points on 12-for-19 shooting to lead five Celtics in double figures.
Green added 21 points in 20 minutes off the bench to help the Celtics snap the skid, which matched the 11th-longest single-season losing streak in NBA history.
"We've got nothing to celebrate," Al Jefferson remembered his teammates saying in the game's final seconds. "We should feel good about it. But don't run off the court like we won the championship."
As relieved as the Celtics are to have their losing streak behind them, the road ahead is not an easy one. Boston faces four of the Western Conference's top six teams on this trip.
The Celtics have lost eight straight on the road and are 8-17 away from home. They are 4-14 overall against teams from the West.
"I thought that if we could win this game, it gives us a fighting chance out there. That's all we want," coach Doc Rivers said after beating Milwaukee. "The guys are in there taking monkeys off each others' backs and all that stuff. It's just a relief to get it done."
While the Celtics finished the first half of the season on a high note, the Kings (22-29) dropped their last three games before the All-Star break for their sixth losing streak of at least three games this season. They had put together a season-high five-game win streak before the skid.
Sacramento fell 110-93 to New Orleans on Wednesday as the Hornets outrebounded the Kings 45-33 and shot 57.7 percent from the field to match the second-highest mark by a Sacramento opponent this season. The Kings were within one point late in the first half, but allowed nine consecutive points before halftime.
"Obviously, the end of the first half was the momentum changer," Sacramento coach Eric Musselman said. "I thought we played well most of the first 22 minutes of the first half, and then the last 2 minutes of the half, they opened up in double digits."
The Kings look to rebound at Arco Arena, where they are 15-12 this season. They have won 10 straight at home over Boston since a 130-102 loss on Feb. 16, 1996, and have won 16 of the last 20 overall meetings in the series.
The Kings snapped a season-high seven-game losing streak in the last meeting with a 96-91 win at Boston on Jan. 19.
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