Celtics Rally Twice to Gut Out Win Over Kings

BOSTON – The most successful NBA teams can gut out a win in any type of situation. Even if that situation entails giving up 38 points in the first quarter, going behind by as many as 17 before halftime, and having to overcome two separate double-digit deficits, all while battling post-road trip fatigue in a game against the fastest-paced offense in the league.

That was the situation that the Boston Celtics got themselves into Thursday night against the Sacramento Kings. And, being their first game back at TD Garden after a four-game, West Coast swing, it was not the most ideal scenario to be involved in.

Though, as tough as that scenario was, it helped produce one of the most impressive, gut-it-out wins of the Celtics’ season, as they fought back and overcame the Kings, 126-120.

“The hardest game is the first game coming back from a road trip” Kyrie Irving explained after logging his second career triple-double on 31 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists. “It’s always going to be a dogfight no matter who you’re playing against, but obviously when you have a team fighting for playoff position it’s going to be that type of intensity and you’ve got to be ready for it. So, they were up 17, but we used our experience and a lot of the things we’re great at, just attitude, toughness, things we can control, effort, and got back in the game.”

The Kings started off by producing the highest-scoring first quarter of any Celtics opponent this season, dropping 38 points on 70 percent shooting. By the 9:35 mark of the second frame, they had built up a 44-27 lead.

Boston sure looked like it was battling those post-road trip blues that Irving alluded to, but its players didn’t allow that to be an excuse.

“It's the NBA. Everybody plays 82,” Jaylen Brown stated matter-of-factly. “We got to come out and do a job no matter who we are playing.”

So, the C’s did their job. They battled back and, less than 12 minutes later, found themselves ahead by one.

However, an offense such as Sacramento’s does not go down that easy. Boston’s lead lasted a mere 12 seconds before the Kings regained control, going on a 16-2 run that put them back on top, 80-67.

Experiencing a comeback such as that, only to fall back into a double-digit hole, could make a team want to lie down and sweep the dirt over their faces. The Celtics, however, picked up their shovels and began to dig themselves back out.

Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris put on their hard hats and produced 17 points during the third quarter. Brown, in particular, delivered an impressive blow, as he knocked down three consecutive over a span of 100 seconds late in the third frame to give Boston a 91-89 lead.

“I thought after the six-minute mark of that quarter we were really dialed in,” coach Brad Stevens said. “They forced us to play big some; I thought our double bigs played well together and I thought obviously the lift the Jaylen gave us scoring the ball off the bench.

“We got a lot of good performances in those last 16 minutes. I thought Morris (21 points, 13 rebounds) kind of kept us afloat there for a while, at the end of the first half, start of the third quarter. Made some plays at the end of the third quarter; made some plays at the end of the game. I thought he dug deep, because I thought he looked like he was a little bit tired in those first six minutes of the game coming off the trip. So, that’s really encouraging when you’re got a guy who’s just going to dig, dig deep and figure it out for you.”

Those type of gutsy wins that force guys to dig deep are exactly the kind of games that Boston wants to experience at this time of the season, considering that the Playoffs are just one month away.

“That’s what it’s about,” said Brown, who finished with 22 points off the bench. "That’s Celtics basketball. No matter if it’s ugly or if it’s pretty, you just have to figure out a way to get it done.”

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