|With Sacramento's Mikki Moore in hot pursuit, Paul Pierce hits the ground and takes the ball with him. (STEVE YEATER/ASSOCIATED PRESS)|
Kings' reign over Celtics over
Boston ends skid by winning in Sacramento for first time since '96
SACRAMENTO - The Celtics finally were able to crown the Kings last night in California's capital city.
Boston snapped an 11-game losing streak here with an ugly 89-69 victory. The Celtics improved to an NBA-best 23-3 and have won five straight games on the road. It was Boston's first win here since Feb. 16, 1996.
"My first win in Sacramento," said Paul Pierce, who is in his 10th year with the Celtics. "This is probably the only building I haven't won in during my entire NBA career. I got that off my back now."
Ray Allen scored a game-high 17 points, Pierce added 16, and Kevin Garnett had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Boston shot only 40.8 percent from the field and committed 18 turnovers. The Kings (11-16) shot 38.2 percent and didn't have a player score more than 15 points.
"A lot of good things, a lot of bad things," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "But it's a win and we'll take it."
The Celtics' top-ranked defense entered the game allowing an average of 86.6 points. Sacramento finished 32 points shy of its average by shooting 38.2 percent from the field and missing 13 of 15 3-point attempts. Pierce played tough defense on Kings forward Ron Artest, who missed 11 of 15 shots en route to 15 points. Sacramento committed 21 turnovers.
Boston has held 12 of its last 13 opponents to fewer than 100 points, and three of its last five to less than 40 percent shooting.
"Paul was phenomenal [defensively]," Rivers said. "The whole team, [too]."
Said Pierce: "I always enjoy playing against Ron Artest. He's a competitor. He makes it hard on you. He's the most difficult player I've got to match up with offensively and defensively."
The Kings tested the Celtics with some questionable physical play. Rajon Rondo was knocked hard to the floor on more than one occasion. After a disgruntled Rondo asked Kings forward-center Mikki Moore why he fouled him on one play, Moore explained that he had six fouls and he was going to use them. But what stood out was when Garnett lay on the floor after being poked in left eye and fouled hard by several Kings with 8:29 remaining.
Pierce said teams have been physical with the Celtics for the last 15-20 games. Rivers said that while there was some tough fouls and trash-talking, there was nothing that a player should be fined for, and his team shouldn't have responded to the talking.
"You've got to expect that," said Pierce of the physical play. "We've got a target on our back. We're on the road. We can't expect to get any calls. Teams are going to play physical and push us around. I thought we kept our composure late in the game and we were able to come away with the win."
Said Kings coach Reggie Theus: "Sometimes when you're not playing well you've got to be more physical. They're a great basketball team and they played extremely well."
The Celtics outscored the Kings, 35-13, in the second quarter to take a 53-29 halftime lead. Boston nailed six 3-pointers in the quarter and limited the Kings to 5-of-16 shooting. The Celtics went on a 33-5 run after being down, 24-20.
"We just picked up our intensity on the defensive end and it created opportunities," Pierce said. "We got out on the break. We knocked down shots. We were able to build a big lead."
Sacramento got back in the game by outscoring Boston, 27-13, in the third quarter to slice its deficit to 66-56. The Celtics shot 25 percent (4 for 16) from the field, while the Kings connected on 52.6 percent of their shots and scored 11 points off turnovers.
"In the third quarter we stopped scoring and we stopped defending, too," Rivers said. "It's one of those stretches that we were so upset that we couldn't score that we stopped defending. I told our guys, 'I can live with not scoring. I can't live with giving up the points we gave up.' "
An Artest lay-in trimmed the Kings' deficit to 66-61 with 11:11 remaining. Three-pointers by Eddie House (three 3-pointers) and James Posey (11 points, three 3-pointers) put the Celtics up, 72-61, with 10:10 remaining. Boston did not let Sacramento get closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
"We knew they were going to make a stand, especially at home," Pierce said. "And we countered that run, pushed the lead, and finished the game."
Said Theus: "They're a great basketball team and they came here and took care of business, and that's the bottom line."