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Boston Celtics struggle to score against Sacramento Kings, lose 107-96

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The Celtics struggled to find buckets against one of the worst defenses in basketball, and posted their third straight disappointing defeat.

Sacramento Kings v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Two days after a late rally fell short against a team outside of the playoff picture, the Boston Celtics conjured up a repeat performance. Despite a hard-fought third-quarter that kept things close, the Celtics’ offense scuffled against one of the worst defensive units in basketball. The result was their third-straight loss, as they fell to the Sacramento Kings, 107-96.

Jaylen Brown led the Celtics on the evening with 19 points, and supporting him was a somewhat balanced effort that saw four other Celtics (Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Daniel Theis and Robert Williams) contribute double-digit scoring. Three Kings (De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Richaun Holmes) surpassed the 20-point threshold on the evening, and it was too much for the offensively-challenged Celtics to overcome tonight.

Play kicked off with some strong defensive effort by Boston in the opening minutes, but it wasn’t long before the Sacramento offense found a rhythm. They shot 55% from the field in the first quarter, led in large part by another red-hot performance against the Celtics by Hield, who cashed in on a trio of three-pointers early to spark the Kings. They pushed ahead to an eight point advantage over Boston, and after a small Celtics’ rally was foiled by a few unfortunate turnovers, the Kings ended the quarter leading 28-22.

Boston’s performance in the first half could best be described as lethargic. Apart from Brown’s fast-break dunk in the first quarter and some sharp buckets from Walker, there wasn’t much to remark upon about their play on either end of the court. The Kings continued to knock down shots en route to opening up their first double-digit lead of the game, and while the Celtics mostly made enough plays to keep the lead manageable, they never felt particularly close to going on a real run. They’d enter halftime at arm’s length, trailing 55-45.

If adjustments were made at halftime, they weren’t particularly evident as the third quarter began. The back-and-forth between the two teams felt more or less the same as play began. The Kings pushed their lead ahead by a few points, the Celtics found a few buckets, then the Kings restored the lead. It was a game of tug-of-war where the rope continually hovered between a 7- and 13-point lead.

As the quarter continued, however, Boston finally started to find some stops against the Sacramento offense. The Kings came up empty on a few consecutive possessions, and a pair of threes from Brown and Marcus Smart cut the lead all the way down to just three points with less than five minutes remaining in the quarter. Some big-time plays from Brown and Payton Pritchard helped keep the game close, and the Celtics entered the final quarter trailing by just one point, 82-81.

The fourth quarter opened with a stalemate. Offense mostly ground to a halt. The game stayed frozed at 84-84 for several minutes, as both Boston and Sacramento struggled to create good looks or connect on the ones they found. But with just over seven minutes remaining in regulation, the Celtics found their first lead since the early minutes, as a Grant Williams three inched them ahead 87-86.

The back-and-forth continued as crunch time inched closer. The two teams juggled a one-point lead between each other for a few possessions in a row, before Holmes banked in a three-pointer to push Sacramento ahead by four. The Celtics battled back with a few more buckets, but Hield connected on a massive three-pointer with under two minutes to play that served as the tipping point. The Celtics ultimately dribbled out the clock down 11 points in the closing seconds, and dropped their third straight game.

Next up, the Celtics continue their mini-homestand, hosting the Orlando Magic this Sunday at 3:30 PM EST on NBC Sports Boston.