Isaiah Thomas and the Boston Celtics came into Sacramento on Wednesday night riding a seven-game win streak and fell handily to the Kings 108-92. The Kings were without DeMarcus Cousins on the night as he served his automatic one game suspension after picking up his 16th technical foul of the season Monday against the Bulls.
The Kings played inspiring basketball in the second half as they outscored the Celtics 59-43. Sacramento held themselves to 14 turnovers on the night while racking up 11 steals.
Sacramento’s bench proved to be the difference maker in this one as they combined for 50 points on the night. Ben McLemore finished with 17 points, Willie Cauley-Stein had 14 points, Matt Barnes finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Anthony Tolliver contributed 11 points.
Darren Collison was the star on the night scoring 26 points with five assists and four steals. Collison stayed aggressive for the full 48 minutes doing much of the harassing of Thomas holding him slightly below his scoring average with 26 points (6/16 FG, 4/11 from three). Collison surely played his best basketball of the season Wednesday night being the spark the Kings needed to put the game out of reach.
The injury list grew for the Kings Wednesday night as Ty Lawson expeditiously walked to the locker room after straining his left hamstring with 2:04 remaining in the second quarter.
Collison played increased minutes in his Lawson’s place and coach Dave Joerger had to resort to Arron Afflalo for a back up option at the point. If Lawson’s injury is more severe than we think he potentially could join Garrett Temple, Rudy Gay and Omri Casspi on the IR list. Lawson’s MRI revealed a mild strain of the left adductor muscle (adductor Magnus). He is listed as day to day going forward.
Sacramento’s team defense proved to be the difference maker in last night’s game. The constant movement and “in your face” approach on defense played a major role in the Celtics uncanny turnovers. The Celtics turned the ball over 18 times and were forced into taking undesirable shots on countless occasions in the later third and fourth quarters.
The Kings managed to win the rebounding battle on the night, 40-39, without their leading rebounder in Cousins at 10.7 rebounds per game. Kosta Koufos and Barnes were able to pick up the burden as they both accounted for 11 rebounds on the night while Cauley-Stein contributed with five of his own.
Without their most dominant low post scorer in Cousins, the Kings converted on a game high 46 points in the paint to Boston’s 32. High screen and rolls combined with the continuous slashing by McLemore and Collison contributed significantly in that category.
In the last two weeks the Kings have now beaten the Cavaliers in Cleveland, the Warriors at home and now the second place Eastern Conference Celtics. Sacramento has the ability to play at a high level and it has shown over the past two-week span.
Eight out of the last 10 games have been highly competitive matchups for the Kings’ coming down to the final five minutes of the contest. After a blowout loss last week in Houston and a blowout win last night against Boston, the feeling of accomplishment and team morality is at an all time high 53 games into the season.
Sacramento improves to 2-2 on their most crucial home stand of the season after the win and sits two and a half games out of the eighth playoff seed in the west.
The Kings continue their 6-game home stand Friday night as they welcome the Atlanta Hawks. Tip off is at 7:30 PM.