To this point, the Boston Celtics’ six-game road trip has been about mercurial as you could have expected. They’ve picked up quality wins against Minnesota and Portland, but at the same time, dropped winnable contests against Houston and Utah as well. A 4-2 stretch of games (dating back to their March 8 blowout over the Blazers) feels like it could have been a 6-0 one, if not for a few bad breaks.
For their last showing prior to their return to Boston, the Celtics faced off with Sacramento Kings — the third seed in the Western Conference, entering the night’s action. They walked away with their best win of the entire trip, distancing themselves in the third quarter and scoring a comfortable win over the Western Conference contenders, 132-109.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown led the way with a pair of strong performances, scoring 36 and 27 respectively, and the Celtics welcomed Robert Williams III back to the lineup, who infused a clear impact across his 21 minutes off the bench. For the Kings, Domantas Sabonis recorded a triple-double, 16-13-12, and six of their regular rotation players scoring in double figures, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Celtics’ best all-around performance in some time.
It was all buckets, all the time in the early minutes of this game. Both offenses saw the ball flying from player to player, leading to several beautiful offensive possession in a sequence in the early moments of the game. The difference arose when Sacramento’s three-pointers found the bottom of the net, but Boston’s, largely, did not. The Kings hit six of their first 15 attempts (40%), while the Celtics scuffled for much of the frame. Late in the quarter, though, Tatum came alive, connecting on a pair of threes — improving the Celtics’ three-point percentage all the way to 26.7% — and cutting the Sacramento lead to just two points entering the second quarter, 32-30.
The finesse on this one from JT pic.twitter.com/kO0V2abulT— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 22, 2023
The distance shooting caught up with everything else as the game wore on. Boston’s shooters came alive in the third quarter, connecting on seven threes as part of a furious positive regression that helped establish a significant Celtic lead. Both teams have thrived off of high-tempo play this season, and each shot better than 50% from the field and 40% from three on the night. The Celtics were the rare team to appear to have an edge over a Kings offense that has been the NBA’s best this season, though. A 40-point third quarter drove them to a 15-point lead entering the final frame, 100-85.
This move is straight out of a video game pic.twitter.com/BFSmoW6tih— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 22, 2023
Among the prominent differences between the two teams tonight was the turnover battle, which the Celtics won handily, 14-5, on the evening. The Kings certainly scored efficiently, but an opportunistic Boston defense cost them enough possessions to create an advantage. Both teams also shot notably poorly from the free throw line — each shot worst than 70% from the free throw line, including a 6-of-11 from Tatum.
The fourth quarter kicked off with the Celtics firmly in the driver’s seat. But while the Kings managed to put themselves into the bonus midway through the quarter after a series of Boston fouls, they never made any meaningful inroads into the Celtic lead. Tatum slammed home a dunk with three minutes to play, putting the Celtics ahead 123-99, and Joe Mazzulla finally emptied the bench to coast the rest of the way to the win.
Next up, the Celtics will, mercifully, return home. They’ll face off with the Indiana Pacers on Friday at the TD Garden, at 7 PM EST on NBA TV.