By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
After starting their five-game road trip with a dramatic win over the Warriors, the Celtics fell back down to earth out west with a late loss to the Kings Wednesday night. In a game that had nine lead changes (three in the fourth quarter) and eight ties, Boston didn’t have enough in the fourth quarter to close this one out.
On top of the usual difficulties that come with playing a back-to-back, the Celtics also had to deal with unusually thin depth at the point guard position. Kemba Walker was unavailable due to load management – the plan is for him to sit out one half of all the back-to-backs this season. On top of that, Boston was also without Marcus Smart (calf) and Payton Pritchard (knee).
Despite coming away from the first quarter with just a 26-22 lead, the first 12 minutes were encouraging for Boston – especially on the defensive end. The Kings have been one of the best offensive teams in the league this season, but the C’s defense held them to just 8-of-22 shooting in the first frame, and their leading scorer De’Aaron Fox to just two points.
The Celtics started the second quarter by growing their lead to 10 before the Kings scored a point. However the Kings quickly chipped into that lead, and added a 9-0 run towards the end of the quarter (with Jayson Tatum on the bench) to temporarily take the lead. At the half, Sacramento led 52-51.
Boston grabbed the league back at the start of the third quarter, then a few minutes later began a 19-4. That run was capped by a Jaylen Brown three pointer with five minutes left in the period, which gave the Celtics their first double-digit lead since the first half.
That lead would quickly shrink, and the Kings once again tied things up in the final minutes of the quarter. The game of runs headed to the fourth with Sacramento up 82-81.
After a quick Sacramento surge, the Celtics once again gained a five-point lead. That lead didn’t last long, with the Kings getting themselves up by as much as four heading into the final minute.
Down three in the final 10 seconds, the Celtics had Grant Williams at the free throw line. He missed the first shot, then purposely missed the second. Williams was able to grab his own rebound, but the rest of the team reacted slowly. Tatum was able to get up a forced corner three point shot, but the look came up short.
Kings in a #FoulOrDefend elect to foul. Grant Williams makes the first FT. Misses the 2nd, gets the rebound and throws it out to Jayson Tatum for a 3. Kings dodged a bullet. pic.twitter.com/Vz6sO1r4DA— Steve Finamore (@CoachFinamore) February 4, 2021
Tatum finished a rebound shy of his first triple-double of the year, with 27 points, 10 assists, and nine boards. He also had two steals. Brown added 21 points, with Tristan Thompson pitching in 17 and Daniel Theis scoring 11. They were the only four Celtics in double figures.
Second-year point guard Tremont Waters was the most sizable increase in his role due to the point guard situation. He scored three points on 1-of-8 shooting in 23 minutes. However, he did have five assists and two steals, and didn’t register a single turnover. Carsen Edwards also saw some extended run, scoring three points in eight minutes.
Fox led the way for the Kings with 26 points, 13 of those coming in the fourth quarter. Rookie Tyrese Haliburton added a career-high 21 points.
The Celtics are now 1-1 on their west coast swing, and fall to 11-9 with the loss. They’ll be back in action on Friday, taking on the red hot Clippers in LA.. That game tips off at 10:00 p.m., with pregame coverage beginning at 9:30 on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com