In a nutshell
After playing their best game of the season and demolishing the Warriors in Oakland on Tuesday night, the last thing the Celtics wanted to do was throw away that progress by losing to the Sacramento Kings.
They didn’t. In fact, the Cs put forth another strong, encouraging performance in a tense battle that was in doubt until the final buzzer. The score was Celtics 111, Kings 109 and, like the night before, Gordon Hayward was the hero.
The key sequence down the stretch: With the Celtics holding a three-point lead, Hayward almost blew it by fouling Buddy Hield taking a three. Hield made all the freebies to tie the score with 7.6 seconds left. The Celts, out of timeouts, inbounded to Hayward, who raced upcourt and swished a runner from the left of the key with just two seconds left. After a Kings timeout, the Celts’ defense forced Harrison Barnes into a desperation three that missed the rim, and it was over.
What went well
Al Horford was huge and nearly had a triple-double, with 21 points (8-10 from the field), 11 rebounds, 7 assists, and +18 in 31 minutes. He scored 17 of his points in the second half.
Marcus Morris had 19 points and made virtually a game-saving play with 16 seconds left. The Celts were clinging to a one-point lead when the ball was knocked loose from Marcus Smart at midcourt. Mook dove to the floor, smothered the rock and called time to save the possession. That led to two vital free throws from Jayson Tatum.
Tatum scored 24 points and in the final minute swished a crucial turnaround jumper, then the aforementioned two free throws, each time keeping the Celtics ahead by a necessary three points.
On his 25th birthday, Smart had one of his normal “winning plays” games, with 9 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals, and deflections galore.
Hayward had 12 points on 6-10 shooting. The team as a whole shot 40-79 (50.6%).
The following is actually “what went well sometimes,” because all night the teams took turns having scoring runs.
- The Celtics led early in the first quarter, but a 16-5 burst gave the Kings control and a 32-26 lead.
- In the second, Boston had a 9-0 run to retake the lead, but then missed seven straight shots as SAC came back. The score was tied at halftime, 49-49.
- In the third, the Kings ran off seven straight, but the Cs countered with a 13-3 burst.
- Early fourth, Sacramento outscored the Cs 11-4 to tie the score at 88.
What went wrong
Kyrie Irving did not play due to a bruised thigh, which the team said he suffered vs. the Warriors. Reports said the injury bothered him on Wednesday more than expected, so the team decided to hold him out. As usual, Terry Rozier filled in and scored a solid 16 points.
Aron Baynes played just 8:41.
We rarely see a lane violation, but two were called tonight and each one cost the Cs a point. One took away a Boston point and one gave Sacramento a second chance, which was made.
Last two minutes of the game, Smart stole the ball and went in for a layup, but Hield chased him down and knocked it out of bounds off Smart’s leg. There was a replay review that clearly showed Hield fouled Smart – but fouls can’t be changed by replay. So the Kings got the ball and scored to close within two.
The Kings made 40 of 80 field goals (50%). Harrison Barnes led with 24 points (8-14 shooting), followed by Hield with 23 (8-19); Willie Cauley-Stein, 19 (8-9); and D’Aaron Fox, 16 (7-13) plus 7 assists.
Did you see this?
The Kings, who won their only NBA championship in 1951, have a good sense of humor.