First impressions: Celtics 95, Kings 92
Instant reaction after the Boston Celtics posted a 95-92 triumph over the Sacramento Kings Tuesday night at ARCO Arena:
How the game was won: The Celtics leaned heavy on their bench with the five-man backup unit of Tony Allen, Eddie House, Marquis Daniels, Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis combining for 44 points on 13-of-30 shooting (43.3 percent), while also establishing the defensive tone that carried Boston after the first quarter. House canned a quartet of 3-pointers for 12 points, while Wallace added 17 points. Davis chipped in 6 points and 8 rebounds in 17 high-energy minutes, helping him emerge with a team-best plus-11 in the plus/minus stat (Wallace and Daniels were both plus-10).
Turning point: After the Celtics gave away yet another second-half lead, this time watching a seven-point, fourth-quarter lead evaporate as the Kings grabbed an 87-86 advantage late, captain Paul Pierce answered with a monster 3-pointer with 1:38 to play. Sacramento went cold from the field and the free-throw line, allowing Boston to escape with the win.
Stat of the game: Boston's starters combined for 17-of-50 shooting (34 percent) for 51 points. Only Pierce (17 points) and Ray Allen (15 points) reached double digits. Rajon Rondo finished 1-for-6 shooting with 4 points and 6 assists, while Kendrick Perkins had another quiet evening with 6 points on 2-for-7 shooting.
Unsung hero: Doc Rivers for his clock management. In an ugly game in which the Kings were plagued by an inability to make free throws (19 of 30), the Celtics built a four-point lead late, then never let Sacramento attempt a 3-pointer that could have tied it.
What it means: A win is a win is a win ... right? The Celtics continue to make things far more difficult than they should be. Boston's starters were again a disappointment, leaning on the bench to rescue them yet again. On the positive side, after giving up 30 first-quarter points, Boston allowed 62 points over the final three periods.
But Boston won't get away with this type of performance against most teams, including the three remaining on this Western trip (Lakers, Blazers,and Nuggets). The most disappointing aspect has to be the lack of energy and defensive intensity from the first unit to start the game. Even after talking all weekend about the need to start off the road trip and the second half of the season on the right foot, Boston's starters again looked flat throughout the first half.
"It's a win," said Rivers, seeming to acknowledge that beggars can't be choosers. "I don't know what tone it's going to set, but we get a win and now we have to move to the next game. That's our approach over the next 31 games. We're not looking ahead, we're not sending messages, we're just trying to win this game, get better, then focus on the next game. The whole trip, we're just looking at the next game. That's how we have to do it."
This win will do little to silence the call for a trade to shake up the team, though Tuesday's game is unlikely to alter president of basketball operations Danny Ainge's strategy as Thursday's deadline approaches. Reports indicate Boston might be closing in on a deal for New York's Nate Robinson, which would provide the smaller-level stirring of the pot that this team appears to need.
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