Boston Celtics: Sacramento Kings

Olynyk taking charge for C's

March, 18, 2014
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Rookie Kelly Olynyk already had a bit of pep in his step after his offensive exploits helped the Boston Celtics rally from a 15-point deficit, and it was a one-possession game when Dirk Nowitzki caught the ball on the right wing late in the third quarter on Monday night. Olynyk put himself in Nowitzki's pocket and forced him to give up the ball without a dribble, but Nowitzki would get it back soon after and drive. Olynyk shuffled over, established position, and absorbed a shoulder to the chest from Nowitzki while drawing the charge call.

CSN ScreenshotKelly Olynyk draws a charge against Dirk Nowitzki.
It's plays like that that spotlight Olynyk's recent development. The 22-year-old big man finished a team-best plus-15 in plus/minus during Monday's 94-89 loss in Dallas. Olynyk scored 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting with nine rebounds, an assist and a steal over 27:13. But it was his defense, including against Nowitzki -- one of his childhood faves -- that deserved the spotlight.

Olynyk allowed only three points on eight defended possessions on Monday night, according to individual defensive data logged by Synergy Sports. He drifted a little too far from Nowitzki off a high pick-and-roll in the fourth quarter and paid the price with a key 3-pointer with 1:33 to go. But Olynyk was otherwise solid and confirmed what the eye test tells us lately.

Olynyk isn't just settling in on the offensive end, he's slowly getting more comfortable on the defensive side as well.

According to Synergy data, Olynyk is allowing a mere 0.615 points per play over his last three games and opponents are shooting just 22.7 percent against him. That's a spectacular number considering Olynyk is allowing 0.879 points per play this season, ranking in the 47th percentile among all league players. Olynyk routinely has topped the "silver linings" category of recent losses as he makes strides at both ends of the floor during his rookie campaign.

We already told you last week how Olynyk's offensive game has blossomed, particularly over the past month. His strides are even more evident in recent games. Let's leave it at this: In the last three contests, Boston owns an offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) of 108.2 in Olynyk's 72 minutes of floor time, which is 13.3 points higher than the team average overall. What's more, the Celtics were 2.2 points better than their average defensively when Olynyk was on the court in those games.

It seems appropriate that Olynyk played one of his better games against Dallas, the team that drafted him. Oh sure, the Mavericks made the pick for Boston after the Celtics moved up three spots to take him, but Olynyk will have a bit of Dallas attached to him.

Which is fitting, because it looked like he was trying to put on Nowitzki's jersey with his defense late in the third quarter. Olynyk looks really comfortable on the floor lately, an encouraging sign late in his rookie campaign. He's shooting with confidence -- which everyone knew would come eventually -- but it's his activity on the glass and his defensive progress that are most noteworthy at this point.

A couple of other thoughts after Monday's loss in Dallas:

Jerryd Bayless scored 12 of his team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter while aiding the comeback attempt. Bayless made 4-of-7 shots in the span, including a pair of 3-pointers. Even after shifting to point guard in the absence of Rajon Rondo, Bayless again showed he can put up points in a hurry.

• One night after going for 39 points against New Orleans, Jeff Green finished 2-of-12 shooting with nine rebounds, four assists and a steal. Green also had a team-high six turnovers.

On guard!

January, 31, 2013
1/31/13
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The stifling defense from new-look guard combination Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley helped the Celtics topple the Kings without Rajon Rondo:

http://espn.go.com/boston/?topId=8900168

Notebook: Sullinger's back episodes

January, 30, 2013
1/30/13
11:25
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BOSTON -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers said rookie Jared Sullinger had been dealing with back woes in recent weeks, but it hadn't forced the first-year forward off the floor until Wednesday's 99-81 triumph over the Sacramento Kings.

Sullinger played a mere 4 minutes, 8 seconds before pulling himself from the game due to back spasms. He tried to ice the affected area in hopes of returning to the game, but was ruled out late in the first half.

"I know he was trying to get back on the floor," said Rivers. "I don't know if that's bad. But when you have spasms, they last. And we'll just see. He's day-to-day."

Red flags about his back forced Sullinger to slide down the draft board in June before Boston scooped him up at No. 21. This is the first time back woes have forced him out of action, but Rivers admitted it's a lingering issue.

"Honestly, I know [team trainer] Eddie [Lacerte] said something a week or two ago, it's been bothering him," said Rivers. "And I think this is what he'll have. He'll have these episodes. We gotta get him through it. Hopefully he doesn't miss games with them. But if he does, he does. He's going to get right and come back."

It was a less-than-ideal day for Sullinger. Not only did he have the back issue, but the league passed him over for the Rising Stars rookie/sophomore game next month at All-Star weekend in Houston and upheld his first career technical from Sunday's double-overtime win over the Miami Heat.

Informed of the Rising Stars snub, All-Star-bound Kevin Garnett hoped his young teammate used it as motivation.

"It doesn't surprise me," said Garnett. "The league has, I guess, an agenda in what they want, and Jared's not in that agenda. I hope it creates a monster within him. I hope it does nothing but encourage him."

Rivers thinks better things await Sullinger in the future.

"Listen, he'll make [All-Star-like events] eventually -- and maybe not that team, but he'll be in the league a long time and I think he'll be happier with that in the long run," said Rivers.

Read on for more postgame notes, including why Rivers got mad at Jeff Green; Courtney Lee disputes he's "unhappy" in Boston; Brandon Bass bounces back; and C's spread the wealth.

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Rapid Reaction: Celtics 99, Kings 81

January, 30, 2013
1/30/13
9:54
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David Butler II/USA TODAY SportsKevin Garnett works against DeMarcus Cousins on Wednesday night at TD Garden.
BOSTON -- Rapid reaction after the Boston Celtics defeated the Sacramento Kings 99-81 on Wednesday night at TD Garden:

THE NITTY GRITTY
Nothing like the lowly Sacramento defense to ease in a Rajon Rondo-less offense for Boston. The Celtics put six players in double figures, including Paul Pierce (16 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists) and Kevin Garnett (13 points, 9 rebounds, team-high 5 assists). Boston got 12 points apiece from bench players Brandon Bass, Jeff Green and Jason Terry. Boston shot 53.4 percent (39-of-73) from the floor overall (this despite a slow start and a less-than-crisp finish after leading by as much as 28). For the Kings, Tyreke Evans scored a game-high 19 points with 11 rebounds, while DeMarcus Cousins added 13 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.

TURNING POINT
The Celtics absolutely dominated the second quarter, outscoring the Kings 37-14 in the frame. Boston made its first 14 shots from the floor and finished 16-of-20 shooting overall (80 percent). What's more, the Celtics got varied output with Green (8 points) and Terry (7 points) sparking the bench unit at the start of the frame. The Celtics' first missed shot of the quarter didn't come until Avery Bradley couldn't finish a layup with 2:29 to go and Boston had already opened a 54-36 cushion (this after trailing by 2 after the first quarter). The Kings were 5-of-18 shooting (27.8 percent) in the quarter and Boston turned seven Sacramento turnovers into 13 points. Hop HERE for a look at Boston's red-hot shooting chart, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info.

SULLINGER (BACK) DEPARTS
Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger departed the game after a mere 4:08 of playing time due to back spasms and did not return. For more on the injury, hop HERE.

FLAGRANT FOR BARBOSA
Trying to prevent an easy layup on a breakaway, Leandro Barbosa got tagged with a flagrant-1 foul after Evans crashed hard to the floor in front of the stanchion. Barbosa sought out Evans after he got off the floor to make sure he was all right.

WHAT IT MEANS
Boston (22-23) improved to 2-0 since Rondo tore the ACL in his right knee and moved within one game of getting back to .500. The Celtics' defense limited Sacramento to 39.2 percent shooting (29-of-74) and was in complete control from the second quarter on. Boston turned the ball over 18 times -- typically a recipe for disaster -- but limited the damage (12 points) and survived without its only true ballhandler. It didn't hurt that Sacramento committed a whopping 19 turnovers for 24 points. The Celtics wrap up a four-game homestand with visits from the Orlando Magic on Friday and the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.

Pregame: C's ready for challenge

January, 30, 2013
1/30/13
7:20
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BOSTON -- As the Celtics prepare for the first real game without Rajon Rondo, who was diagnosed with a season-ending ACL tear during Sunday's double-overtime win over the Miami Heat, coach Doc Rivers said his team is ready for the challenge.

Even if he'd still prefer to have his All-Star point guard available.

"I’d rather have him. But the coach in me, and the players in [the locker room], they understand that they don’t have him," said Rivers. "And so it’s another challenge, and I think everyone will be up for it."

How will the Celtics' offense adapt without Rondo?

"For us, it’s gotta be our ball movement. We don’t have a guy any more that’s talented enough to hold the ball and create plays with his eyes and orchestrate. That’s just not who we are. When you don’t have a shot, or you don't have a play, then you have to make a quicker decision to move the ball. Other than that, that’s it, it’s that simple."

Asked if he expected Rondo around the team during his rehab, Rivers said he'd leave that decision to Rondo.

"I just want him to do what he needs to do," said Rivers. "I think it’s very hard to come to every game. I had that same injury and there’s days you want to be around the guys and there are days you don’t. I think you have to give him room to do what he wants."

A handful of other pregame notes:

* NOT-SO SULLEN SULLINGER: Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger wasn't overly upset with not being selected to the nine-player rookie pool for next month's Rising Stars Challenge at the All-Star game in Houston. "I really don't care," said Sullinger. "That's pretty much it. I really don't care. It doesn't make me or break me." Sullinger said he'd simply take advantage of the downtime. What about using it as motivation? "Nah, you've just got to play. You've just got to play. That's what I do," he said.

* MELO ON THE MEND: Celtics rookie Fab Melo was in the locker room before Wednesday's game after being recalled in order to be tended to by the training staff. "I was playing pretty good with the Red Claws and I got hurt on my left quad," said Melo. "That's why I came here, to get treatment. And hopefully I'm going to stay for the next two weeks. Hopefully it'll be a good week for me." Melo was also wearing a splint over a dislocated finger. It's a finger injury, but the team is hoping the splint helps aid the rehab. "It was treated for a while, but it wasn't going normal, so they're going to try the splint." As for the concussion that served as a speed bump in his development in December, Melo noted he's had "no problem at all." With only 12 healthy bodies on the roster, Melo is able to dress for games if the team desires.

* KISSING COUSINS: Rivers offered praise for Kings center DeMarcus Cousins. "I like him, he’s a good player," said Rivers. "He’s just savvy. The one thing with Cousins, I don’t think he’s a great athlete, he’s just really skilled. And he’s really savvy. He’s a heck of a passer. I think people get lost in all the other stuff, and they don't give him enough credit for his basketball IQ." Rivers was likewise complimentary of the Kings as a whole, particularly after the December beatdown that Boston endured out west: "When their talent is activated, they are hard to beat. We found that our in Sacramento, first-hand. Actually, the last two times in Sacramento. They are talented young team and with that talent, they have nights where they get all activated and all together as a group and they are really good."

* LOPEZ TAKES RONDO'S SPOT: NBA commissioner David Stern named Brooklyn center Brook Lopez to replace injured Rondo in the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston.

W2W4: Celtics vs. Kings (Game 45 of 82)

January, 30, 2013
1/30/13
11:00
AM ET
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesPaul Pierce puts up a shot against the Kings at TD Garden.
The Boston Celtics (21-23, 14-9 home) hosts the Sacramento Kings (17-29, 5-17 away) on Wednesday night at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:

* MOVING ON WITHOUT RONDO: After a couple days to process the news that point guard Rajon Rondo has been lost for the remainder of the season due to an ACL tear, the Celtics begin a rather fascinating stretch in which they must determine whether they are still contenders (something that was in question even with Rondo as Boston stumbled through the first half of the season). It should be interesting to watch how the four-guard rotation of Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, and Leandro Barbosa plays out given that each prefers to play off the ball. Can Boston's offense reinvent itself without its only pure ball-handler?

* SYNERGY SNAPSHOT: The Kings rank 19th in the league averaging 0.904 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports data. But Sacramento thrives with two play types: Spot-up shooting (6th overall) and pick-and-roll ball-handler (9th). Boston found that out the hard way the last time the two teams met as Isaiah Thomas routinely scorched Rondo (who was playing with a bum hip). Thomas and Marcus Thornton need to be Boston's top focuses on Wednesday night. Defensively, the Kings are 29th overall (0.959 points per play). Beyond defending the post, Sacramento struggles on that end of the floor. DeMarcus Cousins essentially tops the team defensively despite standing in the mere 62nd percentile among all league players. Otherwise, the Kings are an eyesore for individual defensive numbers among top rotation players.

* REVENGE IN MIND?: The Kings throttled Boston by 22 points in the two teams' first meeting in Sacramento last month. That night featured a triple-double by Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins (12 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) over 31 minutes. Cousins has come back to Earth a bit lately and that includes him being benched for the fourth quarter of Monday's game in Washington. Can the Celtics turn the tables? If Cousins is out of the doghouse, part of the key might be containing his production, particularly after Jared Sullinger shuffled into the first-unit frontcourt, but coach Doc Rivers must reconfigure his big-man rotations overall.

* DON'T LOOK BACK IN ANGER: While the Celtics are still coming to grips with the loss of Rondo, Rivers said his team has no choice but to trudge forward with the group he's got. "It set in before the Miami game. As a coach you focus on Miami and you try to win that game and now we focus on Sacramento," said Rivers. "I don't sit down and whine a lot. No one's going to hear it or listen -- clearly not the other teams. But I do think we can be really good and I think we'll be a little different, but I think we can be really good." With the trade deadline looming in about three weeks, it's on the Celtics to immediately show this remaining core can still be competitive with the conference elite in order to keep this team intact beyond Feb. 21.

Where's the defense?

December, 31, 2012
12/31/12
1:35
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Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesAvery Bradley's return to action will help the Celtics' struggling defense.
No pressure, Avery Bradley.

The Boston Celtics endured their third consecutive loss by 18 points or more with Sunday's unsightly 118-96 defeat to the Sacramento Kings that capped a cover-your-eyes West Coast swing. The Celtics have plenty of problems to correct as they trek back home, but team defense has to be priority No. 1.

And this opponent shooting chart from the past three games sort of hammers it home. The Clippers, Warriors and Kings combined to shoot a ridiculous 51.3 percent (123 of 240) against Boston, including a whopping 49.3 percent (34 of 69) from beyond the 3-point arc:

Celtics - Last 3 games defense


The Celtics are hoping to welcome back third-year guard Bradley when the team hosts the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night at TD Garden. While Bradley, coach Doc Rivers and teammates have gone out of their way to stress that Bradley shouldn't be viewed as a single savior, the Celtics are in such dire need of a defensive turnaround, he'll unfairly be saddled with expectations of steering this wayward ship back on course.

(Read full post)

Doc's take: 'We were bad the whole trip'

December, 31, 2012
12/31/12
12:28
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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY SportsThe Celtics were left frustrated out west, losing three games by at least 18 points apiece.
The Celtics failed to salvage the final stop on their four-game road trip on Sunday night, losing 118-96 to the Sacramento Kings, which prompted coach Doc Rivers to address defense and effort during his postgame press conference.

Boston, which dropped to 14-16 on the season, allowed Sacramento to shoot 53.7 percent from the field on Sunday, and, more importantly, gave up a whopping 56 points in the paint. While Rivers was critical of his team's defense as a whole, he zeroed in on on-the-ball defense as one of his team's most glaring flaws.

"Defensively, we were bad the whole trip besides the one effort in [Brooklyn], where we beat, in a lot of ways, a broken team at that point, I guess. I didn't know that. So we've just got to do better," Rivers told reporters in Sacramento. "I've got to figure out the right guys who want to do it consistently every night.

"Every time we look like we're going to make a run, we give up a layup or open 3 and a lot of it is just -- No. 1, we've got to just guard the ball better, keep the ball in front of us. I thought the Clippers and Golden State just went [isolations] for the most part and just said, 'We're going to score over your guys, 1-on-1.' And then tonight we just had breakdowns again. So it's disappointing."

After registering a promising 93-76 Christmas Day victory over the Brooklyn Nets, the Celtics dropped three straight games on the West Coast, losing by at least 18 points in each contest. Rivers said after Sunday's loss that his team doesn't yet fully understand how difficult it is to win consistently in the NBA.

"We thought we could win them all. We really did," Rivers said. "But when you don't play well, you don't win. The Knicks came in here and lost the other day, so it's not like we're the only team. The NBA, you can lose every night and you can win every night, and I really believe that. But to win, you've got to play well. Winning is hard, and I don't know if all our guys get that yet. You have to play hard to win an NBA game, one game. And it's difficult and we're not doing it."

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Rapid Reaction: Kings 118, Celtics 96

December, 30, 2012
12/30/12
11:36
PM ET
Ed Szczepanski/USA TODAY SportsRajon Rondo was back on the floor for Boston on Sunday night.
Rapid reaction after the Sacramento Kings defeated the Boston Celtics 118-96 on Sunday night at Sleep Train Arena:

THE NITTY GRITTY
Isaiah Thomas scored a game-high 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting, most of his buckets coming near the rim when Boston offered little resistance on his drives to the basket. John Salmons (23 points on 9-of-12 shooting) and Jason Thompson (20 points on 8-of-11 shooting) were ultra efficient from the floor and big man DeMarcus Cousins quietly posted a triple-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists over 31 minutes for the Kings. Sacramento shot 53.7 percent overall and 50 percent (10 of 20) from beyond the 3-point arc. Paul Pierce and Jason Terry scored 20 points apiece for Boston, while Rajon Rondo -- back in the lineup after a one-game absence due to a hip/thigh injury -- finished with just two points (1-of-6 shooting) to go along with 10 assists over 36 minutes (he was a team-worst minus-25 in plus/minus).

TURNING POINT
The Celtics played from behind for the entire second half, but managed to claw within a possession a couple of times during the third quarter. Any hopes of a trip-saving comeback were dashed as the Kings shot a blistering 63.2 percent in the fourth quarter, making seven of the nine 3-pointers (77.8 percent) they hoisted and tearing the game open while sending Boston to its third consecutive defeat by at least 18 points.

CELTICS DIG ANOTHER EARLY HOLE
Keeping with the recent trend, the Celtics were staring at a double-digit deficit in the first quarter on Sunday. This time around, a 12-1 burst turned a one-point lead into an 18-8 deficit. The Kings ate up Boston inside, scoring 22 of their 24 first-quarter points inside the paint (the other two points came off free throws).

BARBOSA BACK; PIERCE TWEAKS ANKLE
After enduring 16 hours of travel going from his native Brazil to Sacramento, Leandro Barbosa got a little late-game playing time after a four-game absence while tending to a family matter. Barbosa played the final four minutes. Pierce sat the final five minutes after appearing to tweak his right ankle when he landed on Thomas' foot while fouling him during a made 3-pointer.

WHAT IT MEANS
It's getting harder to suggest patience with this team and, at the moment, Boston is playing atrocious basketball. The Celtics were downright manhandled over the final three games of a four-game road trip that started so promisingly with a Christmas Day victory in Brooklyn. Boston offered little resistance when the Kings went inside (56 points in the paint) and Sacramento got hot from the perimeter in the fourth quarter to run away. This Celtics group can't usher in the new calendar year fast enough. Boston will take the next two days off while returning home for games against Memphis (Wednesday) and Indiana (Friday). Guard Avery Bradley, shelved since shoulder woes ended his 2011-12 season in May, is expected to make his season debut on Wednesday. The Celtics need something -- anything -- to give them a jolt and it will be interesting to see if Bradley's return is enough to get this team moving in the right direction.

Pregame: Rondo, Barbosa active for C's

December, 30, 2012
12/30/12
9:03
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The Boston Celtics got a pair of reinforcements for the final game of a four-game road trip as guards Rajon Rondo (hip/thigh) and Leandro Barbosa (family matter) were active for Sunday's game against the Sacramento Kings.

Rondo sat out Saturday's loss to the Golden State Warriors after tweaking his thigh in the fourth quarter of Thursday's game against the Los Angeles Clippers. Barbosa missed the last four games while tending to a family matter in Brazil. He rejoined the team on Sunday in Sacramento.

W2W4: Celtics vs. Kings (Game 30 of 82)

December, 30, 2012
12/30/12
11:45
AM ET
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY SportsPaul Pierce drives last season against the Kings.
The Boston Celtics (14-15, 5-10 away) close out a four-game road trip -- and their 2012 calendar year -- by visiting the Sacramento Kings (10-19, 9-7 home) on Sunday night at Sleep Train Arena (9 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:

* A MUST-WIN GAME?: The idea that a random Sunday night in December against a non-conference team could be termed a must-win game seems a bit silly, but the Celtics really need this one to salvage a road trip that's gone downhill fast. Let's face it, the Kings are a bit of a struggling circus and -- regardless of whether Rajon Rondo (hip/thigh) is able to dress or not -- Boston could really use a victory here. Even after consecutive thumpings at the hands of the Clippers and Warriors, Boston can almost justify a 2-2 trip and closing out the New Year at .500 (while hoping the 2013 portion of the schedule isn't riddled with such inconsistency).

* SYNERGY SNAPSHOT: Offensively, the Kings rank 19th in the league averaging 0.901 points per play, according to Synergy Sports data. Sacramento is actually a top 10 spot-up shooting team (1.009 ppp) and that makes them dangerous one night after Golden State scorched Boston with jumpers. For all of his talents, DeMarcus Cousins isn't a particularly efficient scorer, averaging a mere 0.83 points per play, which ranks in the 32nd percentile among all players. Boston has to limit the damage done by shooters like Marcus Thornton (0.986 ppp, 81st percentile) and even Jimmer Fredette (1.068 ppp, 94th percentile). Defensively, the Kings reside near the bottom of the league, ranking 27th at 0.949 points per play. They are the NBA's worst again pick-and-roll ball-handlers, but if Rondo can't go, the Celtics' ability to exploit there is diminished.

* SOMEONE'S GOTTA STEP UP: Regardless of whether Rondo's on the floor, the Celtics need someone outside of their Big Three to step up. With the team staggering, someone like Jason Terry, Jeff Green, or Courtney Lee needs to put this team on their shoulders for a night and provide a bit more than the inconsistent norm. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett both had terrible games against Golden State and should be motivated to bounce back, but Boston's supporting cast needs to lend a bigger hand in these type of situations, particularly playing the second night of a back-to-back. The Celtics are 4-4 on the second night of back-to-backs this season, but 2-4 on the road in those situations.

Rapid Reaction: Kings 91, Celtics 82

July, 19, 2012
7/19/12
8:35
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LAS VEGAS -- Rapid Reaction following the Boston Celtics' first loss in the Vegas summer league, 91-82 to the Sacramento Kings on Thursday:

HOW THE GAME WAS WON: Jimmer Fredette paced a balanced Sacramento offensive attack that saw five players score in double figures. Fredette scored 19 points on 4-of-7 shooting, while making nine of his 10 free throws. Thomas Robinson came through with a formidable 15-point, 16-rebound double-double for the Kings while Dominique Johnson and Yancy Gates also put up double digits in the scoring column. The Celtics were paced by Dionte Christmas' 19 points, while Jonathan Gibson and Craig Brackins put in 12 apiece off the bench.

CELTICS SHORT-HANDED: The Celtics were without three members of their roster Thursday, as E'Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson and Sean Williams all didn't play after reportedly being traded to the Houston Rockets in a deal for Courtney Lee. The absences were noticeable, particularly those of Moore and Johnson -- two mainstays in the rotation. The Celtics, so far a juggernaut on offense this week, struggled to score for much of the evening, with Christmas coming through as the only consistent source of offense. Christmas started alongside Jamar Smith, Kris Joseph, Fab Melo and Jared Sullinger.

CHRISTMAS KEEPS C'S IN IT: Though the score was fairly lopsided when all was said and done, Christmas proved to be one of the few players capable of keeping the Celtics in the game. He scored nine of Boston's 16 third-quarter points, keeping the deficit at single digits for much of the frame. Christmas' need to step up even more than he already has this summer was evident when it became clear Moore and Johnson wouldn't participate.

C'S RALLY LATE: Down double digits for the majority of the fourth quarter, the C's cut it to 9 with just over a minute and a half to play, thanks to a Craig Brackins 3-pointer followed by a Stephane Lasme breakaway dunk. Jamar Smith put in a late 3-pointer from the left corner, but a fast-break dunk from Robinson capped things for Sacramento.

SULLINGER, MELO STRUGGLE: Sullinger and Melo were largely nonfactors Thursday, with Melo contributing no points and three rebounds in just over 13 minutes, while Sullinger grabbed 10 rebounds but mustered only six points, going 2-for-7 from the field. Both seemed to have their hands full with Robinson, who swooped in for rebound after rebound and proved to be a solid force on the defensive end, bothering many of Sullinger's shots around the rim.

BRACKINS MAKES MOST OF MINUTES: Brackins, who played sparingly in the Celtics' first two games in Vegas, played a week-high 21 minutes Thursday, and came through with 12 points and three rebounds. He showcased his soft stroke from the field, but also drove into the lane numerous times, even throwing down a powerful dunk on the right side during the third quarter.

Postgame notes: KG praises Cousins

March, 17, 2012
3/17/12
4:55
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Rocky Widner/Getty ImagesDeMarcus Cousins earned high praise from Kevin Garnett for his efforts Friday.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- It's no surprise that Kevin Garnett and DeMarcus Cousins got under each other's skin a bit during the Kings' 120-95 throttling of the Celtics Friday night at Power Balance Pavilion. What's more noteworthy might have been the praise that Garnett heaped on Cousins following the game.

Cousins chipped in 20 points on 9-of-17 shooting with seven rebounds and four assists over 25:30. He earned a technical foul for being a little too amped after a putback over Garnett and Paul Pierce, but was a pest for Garnett all night.

While Garnett is often limited in his praise of younger players, especially ones that tend to spar with him on the floor (say, Chicago's Joakim Noah), Garnett was highly complimentary of both Cousins and the Kings as a whole after Friday's loss.

"Man, you know, he’s crafty," Garnett said of Cousins. "He’s better. His antics and all that stuff, that come with him, it's just part of the game. He was aggressive, he got looks with being aggressive. The times when he had a chance to score, he took advantage of them.

"Collectively, I thought [the Kings] played well tonight. I probably watched their last four or five games [before Friday's visit] and they weren’t playing this together. When the first option broke down, they went individual. They weren’t rebounding like this. They’re not a defensive team, but they do and can put up points. Tonight they played more collectively together. They looked like a unit and played like a unit."

Garnett finished with 10 points and nine rebounds over 27:46, one of his quieter efforts recently since moving to the center position.

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Consistently inconsistent C's

March, 17, 2012
3/17/12
4:07
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Kelley L Cox/US PresswirePaul Pierce and the Celtics stumbled against the Sacramento Kings.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- During Friday’s morning shootaround, Celtics coach Doc Rivers asked his players to identify the leading scorer for the Sacramento Kings.

“Everybody kinda looked at each until Keyon [Dooling] said [Marcus] Thornton,” said Rivers. “He was the only one who knew right away. Because you don’t see this team, [DeMarcus] Cousins -- because he gets most of the press -- you would just assume it was him. But it wasn’t.”

And at that moment, Rivers kinda knew it was going to be a long night. He never gets those sort of blanks stares when he asks questions about the key personnel in Los Angeles or Miami or Chicago.

Thornton erupted for a season-high 36 points to fuel a Sacramento offense that shot 53.5 percent from the field overall and exploded for 41 third-quarter points en route to a 120-95 thrashing of the Celtics at Power Balance Pavilion.

As captain Paul Pierce sighed after the game, “It was just one of those good ol’ fashioned butt-whoopings.”

Yes, it was obvious early that the Celtics were lifeless and Rivers tried, as he dubbed it, “junking up the game," hoping to give his team any sort of a spark. He went small, he switched to zone, but none of the gimmicks worked. By midway through the fourth quarter, Rivers had pulled his starters with Sacramento out front by 20 and the tail end of a back-to-back looming Saturday in Denver. But not before Pierce had twisted his right ankle stepping on Thornton’s foot trying to set a fourth-quarter screen and soon limped off to the locker room.

Yes, it was just one of those nights.

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Pierce (ankle) hoping to play vs. Denver

March, 17, 2012
3/17/12
1:17
AM ET

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Boston Celtics captain Paul Pierce suffered a mild right ankle sprain in the fourth quarter of Friday's loss to the Sacramento Kings, but said the injury was minor and hoped to play Saturday against the Denver Nuggets.

"It’s a little sore, I just twisted it at the end," said Pierce. "It should be fine, though. We'll see how it goes. It's sore, but hopefully it won't swell up on the plane."

Pierce said he stepped on the foot of Sacramento's Marcus Thornton while setting a fourth-quarter screen right before Boston's starters were about to be subbed out with the team down 20 with 6:24 to go. Pierce got examined by team trainer Ed Lacerte on the bench then departed for the locker room.

Pierce appeared to be moving well after talking to reporters before departing Power Balance Pavilion. Celtics coach Doc Rivers still expressed mild concern about the injury.

"I’m always concerned, but I don’t think it’s bad," said Rivers. "We don’t know. I was about to take him out anyway, so I just hope [Pierce going to the locker room is] more that than anything else."

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jared Sullinger
PTS AST STL MIN
14.3 2.2 0.7 28.8
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.2
AssistsE. Turner 4.5
StealsM. Smart 1.1
BlocksK. Olynyk 0.7