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Celtics Survive Sacramento 111-109

The Irving-less Celtics hold on to dethrone the Kings.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Sacramento Kings Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Gordon Hayward turned a bad mistake into a big win for the Celtics in a matter of a couple minutes, as the Boston Celtics topped the Kings 111-109 in Sacremento on Wednesday night. The Celtics were paced by the familiar steady play of Al Horford who finshed 21-11-7 and once again was the best Celtics player on a Kyrie-less squad.

Marcus Morris contributed some big buckets down the stretch and finished 19-5-4 as did Jayson Tatum who hit big free throws and finished with 24. It was an offensive effort that was highlighted by the Celtics’ starters tonight. Hayward and Jaylen Brown where the only bench players with points for the Celtics, each chipping in double digits.

With two minutes to go left in a four point game, Marcus Smart came up with the familiar ‘winning play’, forcing a Kings turnover. However, a hustling Buddy Hield knocked the ball out off of Smart to earn his team another chance. On the ensuing play, a hesitation move from De’Aaron Fox confused the Celtics defense who blew a switch and give the Kings the easy layup.

Out of the Celtics timeout the Celtics posted Tatum who drew the foul on on Bogdan Bogdanovic and hit the ensuing free throws. Tatum answered with a tough fadeaway in the lane only for the Kings to get a weakside dunk on the other end via an alley-oop from Nemanja Bjelica to Wily Cauley-Stein, cutting it to a one point game.

With the clock running the down, the Kings were forced to foul Tatum who hit a pair to send the lead to three, but Hayward fouled Hield shooting a three and he hit them all to tie the game. Hayward made amends on the other end hitting a big shot with two seconds left to put the Celtics up for good.

The Kings were paced by their sensational sophomore Fox who, although he finished with a tame 16-7-2 statline, consistently kept the Celtics transition defense on their heels by attacking in transition. Harrison Barnes finished with a quiet 24-8 to lead the Kings in scoring. Cauley-Stein finished with an uber-efficient 19 points on nine field goal attempts.

It was a mixed night for Terry Rozier who started in the place of the scratched Kyrie Irving. Rozier seems to struggle with penetration and playmaking in the halfcourt, but had more success spotting up and shooting as he finished 4-10 from deep.

Things seemed to be getting away from the Celtics early in the third quarter, when the Kings took a 3-point lead fueled primarily by their lightning transition attack. However, the Celtics responded with 8 points in 41 seconds to quickly regain control of the game. The offense picked up for both teams near the end of the third quarter, as the Celtics and Kings scored 12 and 13 points respectively over the last four minutes of the quarter.

Tatum finished the first half one point short of his career high for a half with 15 on the board heading into the midway break. The half was less kind to Morris, who struggled with the front rim on many of his attempts was 1-5 from deep in the first half.

Some familiar bad habits of Celtics reared their head in the first half as the Celtics took 42 field goal attempts but only five were the restricted area. In contrast, the Kings (behind the electric transition play of Fox) took 13 of their 44 field goal attempts in the restricted area during the first half.

Celtics fans unfortunately did not get a look at top Kings’ draft pick Marvin Bagley who was out for tonight’s game with a left knee sprain.

The Celtics will continue their west coast swing this Saturday, as they travel to LA for a highlighted game on the schedule against LeBron James and a Lakers team in turmoil.


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