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Defense and shooting lead to blowout: 10 Takeaways from Celtics-Kings

Boston locked in defensively late in the game and ran away with a 2-0 start to four-game west coast trip

Boston Celtics v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

1. Starting a four-game trip 2-0 is huge for the Boston Celtics. Doing it by beating the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings is even better. Beating the Warriors is always an accomplishment and the Celtics history in Sacramento hasn’t been good over the last several years.

Even better news? Boston got this win in a runaway. Other than Jayson Tatum, who Ime Udoka left in for an extended stretch when Tatum was hot, no Celtics starter played more than 28 minutes. That’s stealing some valuable in-game rest late in the season.

2. Jaylen Brown has seemed out of sorts for the last couple of weeks, but found his rhythm against the Kings. Brown shot 11-of-18 for 30 points. He got started early by scoring an easy one on an off-ball cut:

After a few more drives to the rim, you could tell Brown was feeling pretty good when he dropped in this fallaway:

Later in the half, Brown couldn’t be stopped as he went coast-to-coast for the layup:

It was good to see Brown get it going after a couple of up-and-down weeks.

3. Outside of one point in the middle of the game, when he was seemingly trying to make a point to the officials that he was being fouled, Marcus Smart again controlled things for the Celtics. He had eight assists and four steals. And he made a couple of signature Smart plays too.

This is just Smart wanting it more, and then Jayson Tatum being better than everyone else:

And then in the second half, with the shot-clock just about gone, Smart kept his wits about him for the late-lock lob to Rob:

4. The Celtics had a 20-2 advantage in fastbreak points. That was aided by 11 steals, which Boston regularly turned into points. This was a nice job by Jayson Tatum rewarding Al Horford for running the floor:

You can see Tatum let out a scream of joy at the end of the clip. Tatum said postgame that the Celtics are really upbeat and having a lot of fun now.

5. The three-point shooting in this game, especially in the first half, was outrageous. Boston never really slowed down, as they finished 22-of-40 from behind the arc. The Kings tailed off as the game went along, but still hit 13-of-36 from deep.

At one point to open the second quarter, Jayson Tatum hit triples on three consecutive possessions. He added a fourth a couple of minutes later. Overall, Tatum finished 7-of-10 on three-pointers for the night.

6. One guy not getting in on the three-point barrage was Derrick White. He’s now down to 22.4% from behind the arc in 15 games with Boston.

But White is still making plays. His defense remains excellent, and he’s pushing the pace and finding teammates. This is a nice lob to Daniel Theis after drawing the defense:

White’s size and defense has enabled Ime Udoka to play him and Payton Pritchard together on second units. That’s something Udoka couldn’t do with Pritchard and Dennis Schroder. The two have developed a good chemistry, especially in transition offense:

White also recognizes that Pritchard morphs into prime Larry Bird in the fourth quarter. He again finds him here for a transition three on the next trip:

And White finally got a three to fall himself. It may seem meaningless, as it came near the end of a blowout, but sometimes seeing the ball go through is all a guy needs to get on track:

You can see White hold his follow-through extra long as if to say “About time!”

7. The officiating got really messy in the middle quarters of this game. At various points, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Grant Williams and Ime Udoka were very frustrated. Enough so that Williams and Udoka both picked up technical fouls.

On the plus side, the Celtics eventually rallied and played through. That’s not something that was happening earlier in the season. When they let bad calls or bad no-calls get in their heads, Boston tended to fall apart. Now, they’re saying their piece and moving on. Just another example of how this team has turned a corner.

8. The Celtics had 33 assists on 46 baskets. Five different players had between three and eight assists.

Jayson Tatum was making high-level reads like this all game, even if they didn’t always lead directly to an assist like this one did:

This is beautiful basketball. Al Horford makes the flash cut when Jaylen Brown gets doubled. Before he even catches the ball, Horford knows where he’s going with the next pass. He doesn’t even land before throwing the lob to Rob:

This is pretty ball movement:

That was Payton Pritchard third three-pointer of the fourth quarter. He’s up to 38.3% from behind the arc, after some early season struggles. Since right before the trade deadline, Pritchard has averaged 15.7 minutes over 16 games. He’s scored 6.9 points and knocked in 41.4% of his threes. Pritchard has earned the backup point guard role with his solid play.

9. Ime Udoka emptied the bench with about two minutes to play. Malik Fitts, he of the amazing bench celebrations and new contract, drilled a triple. Sam Hauser continued his streak of only taking three-pointers and hit another one. And then Daniel Theis capped off a big night with this power slam:

10. 2-2 was the goal for the trip, and the Celtics have clinched at least that. And you know what you do when you reach your goal? You set a new one! Now, Boston should be looking for a 3-1 trip…at least.

After a bit of raggedness in the middle of the game, the Celtics took control and clamped down on the Kings. They upped almost all of their league-leading defensive stats from this one. It’s good to know that even if the offense suffers droughts, the defense is always there. That will be important come playoff-time.

Oh, and Boston will be, at worst, a part of the postseason. This victory clinched at least a spot in the Play-In for the Celtics. They’ve got their eyes set on more than that, but, for now, it’s all about a trip to play the Denver Nuggets on Sunday night. What comes will come standings-wise, but the focus is only on the next game for this group.