This single game was for all the (Summer League) marbles. On Tuesday night, two undefeated squads — the Boston Celtics and Sacramento Kings — battled to determine the 2021 NBA Summer League champion. Below is a quarter-by-quarter synopsis:
Boston’s defense picked up right where they left off after holding Philadelphia to 80 points in their regular season finale; the C’s forced a turnover on the first possession and harried Sacramento into an 0-for-3 start. Meanwhile, back-to-back triples from Aaron Nesmith spearheaded a 12-2 opening to the game for Boston and a Kings timeout.
It was then Bruno Fernando’s turn to make his presence felt. The former Atlanta Hawk accumulated three points and a pair of rejections in the first quarter, playing with great energy on both ends and buoying an excellent defensive stretch for Boston.
The Kings responded after their slow start and put together several excellent defensive possessions near the end of the first to claw their way back. Highlighted by a steal from Louis King and a shot clock violation forced by Davion Mitchell’s on-ball defensive chops, the Kings went on a 12-0 run to take a two-point lead at the 3:17 mark. Boston trailed by four, 24-20, at the end of one. Louis King led all scorers with 10, and the Celtics committed a whopping nine turnovers.
Payton Pritchard has been quite possibly the best player in Summer League for the Celtics, but he got off to a slow start on Tuesday. Midway through the second quarter, Pritchard had already logged double-digit minutes yet hadn’t scored a point; he missed all three of his field-goal attempts, with one being an air-ball. It’s worth noting Pritchard was up to six assists by the 5:00 mark, but after scoring 92 in a pro-am game recently, fans may have expected a scoring outburst. They didn’t get one in the first two quarters.
The Kings began to gain separation on the scoreboard as the second progressed. The turnovers and missed threes piled up for Boston, and by halftime, they committed 13 blunders and converted just four of 17 threes. Sacramento also killed Boston on the offensive glass to the tune of 14-1. Offensive rebounds, turnovers, and missed threes dug the Celtics an eight-point halftime deficit, 44-36. Carsen Edwards’ nine points led all Celtics while Nesmith lagged just behind him with eight.
The beginning of the third was nothing short of a rock fight; both teams combined to score just seven points over the first three minutes of the quarter. Nesmith let it fly early and often in the third, but he could not find the bottom of the net thanks to Sacramento’s defense. Conversely, buckets from Jahmi’us Ramsey and Louis King ballooned the Kings’ lead to 13 by the 6:23 mark, the largest of the game.
A problem in the first half, turnovers came back to bite Boston in the third period as well. Five minutes into the quarter, the C’s threw away the ball another six times, increasing their total to 19. That’s over one giveaway per minute, for perspective. As to be expected, Boston’s sloppy play resulted in easy baskets for the opponent, which allowed Sacramento to expand their lead. With 2:36 remaining, the Kings’ advantage reached 20 for the first time of the evening. Heading into the fourth, Boston found themselves staring at a 21-point deficit, 70-49. Louis King remained the leader scorer on both sides with 21 points on 8-for-18 shooting.
Ironically, the Celtics started the final frame with a turnover. It was a microcosm of how the Summer League championship game panned out for Boston.
All in all, the fourth was a forgettable period. With the Summer League title all but Sacramento’s, period four served as an opportunity for the second stringers to see some run time; by around the 4:00 mark, both teams ran with an all-reserve lineup. Sam Hauser, an undrafted sharpshooter, capped off his impressive Summer League with a trey in the fourth. He finished with eight points and hit two of four threes.