In this episode of the “Hoops Saga” I tuned into what I predicted would be a game that should come down to the final seconds, or even overtime perhaps. And not even judging by each team’s win-loss records, or picture for playoff contention, but the overall talents being displayed. If you really looked at the depth chart, the Sacramento Kings and the Boston Celtics are just about even, but we all know which team has the better defense, chemistry, and continuity, and it sure showed last night.

After a postponed game against Philadelphia due to a wet floor hazard, the visiting Kings were well-rested, as they continued their five-game road trip at the Boston Garden, to face the Celtics.

FIRST HALF:

Arron Afflalo, one of Sacramento’s latest off-season pick-ups, missed the first jumper of the game for Sacramento. He only had four field-goal attempts for five points, and that should be a concern for Kings’ coach Dave Joerger.

The Celtics came right out of the gates flying. Ball-movement was exceptional, but player-movement was even better. Al Horford, who played his second game since returning from the birth of his child, definitely had some baby fever in him, finishing with twelve points in the opening period:

Sacramento had made their first field-goal of the game, but the Celtics had eight-answered. The team in green (well, this time, grey) was cutting up the Kings defense with outstanding inside passes, screen pin-downs, and just simply execution of possessions.

But of course, you can’t possibly have a Celtics run without all-star Point Guard and former Sacramento player Isaiah Thomas, who only went 2-of-6 from the floor in the first, but was setting his guys up for 4 assists with no turnovers:

were getting really ugly for Sacaramento, as the Celtics made their fourth three, forcing Joerger to call a timeout with his team down 11-18. But the timeout only seemed to fuel Boston, as they jumped to a 22-11 with under five minutes left in the first.

Avery Bradley, who finished the first quarter with 8 points and three rebounds, quietly made a nice impact on this game. Which is normal. He hit two-three pointers in the first, and as I mentioned Afflalo not really having the best night, I think we may know the reason:

But things changed for Sacramento when they brought in Matt Barnes, Ty Lawson, Omri Casspi, and Garrett Temple, who were all at one point “capable” starters, off the bench. The tempo of the game climaxed, and their defensive intensity started to graduate. Sacramento was able to cut the lead down to just three, as the much-faster Kings’ bench was rolling on both ends.

I mentioned it earlier, but I never really could understand why Sacramento has this “fetish” to run both Koufos and Cousins. Even though Demarcus has expanded his game as an outside shooter, he still does plenty of his work inside. When the two are on the court together, their Net Rating (Per 100 Possesions) in Blocks is a -4.2.

The Kings’ starting lineup of Darren Collison, Afflalo, Rudy Gay, Cousins, and Koufos were a plus/minus of -39, while their second-unit was a +39, and this is why:

Barnes and Lawson had four points each, leading the bench to tie things up at 29, as the first-quarter buzzer sounded.

Cousins led the Kings with 7 points and 3 rebounds, but he and Rudy Gay combined for just 4-of-12 shooting from the field.

When the second quarter began, both teams were quite disasterous offensively, but we knew why: The defense from both teams were rolling. The Kings were 8-23 (34.8%) from the field, and the Celtics were 7-22 (31.8%).

Matt Barnes continued to have himself a great all-around half, with this vicious strip on former Piston Jonas Jerebko:

With about 8:37 Sacramento regained the lead, and we officially had ourselves a close ball-game from there.

The best part about watching this game is that both teams were really constructed throughout the draft. Boston being the better franchise, yes, but as we saw plenty of young names such as Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Kelly Olynyk, Terry Rozier, James Young, or even Ben McLemore (inactive) and Willie Cauley-Stein. All were solid picks from the 2013, 2014, and 2015 drafts:

At the 3:59 mark of the second quarter, the Celtics were up three on Sacramento, but play stopped after we saw two bizzare plays at once, a push-off from Casspi, and a hysterical flop from Jerebko:

The play was ruled a common foul, credit to official Jason Phillips.

Shortly after, Demarcus hit one of his five missed shots in the quarter, but even while struggling on the offensive end, the Kings continued to apply defensive pressure on the Celtics, particularly on their backcourt, making Thomas and Bradley combine for 1-of-8 from the floor in the second.

Check out the quick feet of Darren Collison:

…I mean, REALLY quick feet.

The first half was coming to a close, as the kings were up 46-45 with under one minute remaining. Each team was piling up the turnovers, as offensive foul-after-offensive foul was called. Eleven lead-changes were made in the half, and this play just about sums it up:

The first-half came to a close, with Boston taking a one-point lead, 47-46. Horford led the way with 16 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks, on 7-11 shots. Crowder followed with 8. Unfortunately for Thomas, he had 6 on 3-of-11 makes.

Cousins led Sacramento, but also shot 3-of-11. Rudy Gay was off, with a poor 2-of-8 and 0-4 from outside. Overall, the Kings were at a miserable 39% in the first-half, while Boston was hanging in with 43%. One can easily forget that they were 7/15 from downtown, still efficient since their first-quarter outburst.

SECOND HALF:

The second-half began with a pesky steal from Darren Collison who thought he’d have an easy-look for a layup, but jae Crowder sprinted to commit the wise foul, preventing the and-one.

Demarcus really took a demanding charge in the third. He went back to his bread-and-butter, and attempted more field-goals inside:

More from Demarcus. He made it known that once he has position to finish inside, that he’s the deadliest Center this league has to offer:

With 3:24 left in the third (66-63, Boston) we really started to see more sloppy, but physical basketball in the third quarter. Both teams combined for 12 turnovers, and 17 personal fouls.

But Isaiah Thomas was finally able to have himself an efficient quarter, leading the Celtics with 7 including a difficult and-one jumper. Avery Bradley was able to finish the third strong, scoring six on 3-6 shooting with four rebounds:

The third quarter ends with a game of such “overtime” potential. The score was 72-69, Sacramento, who would be inbounding the ball to begin the final period. Rudy Gay opened up the fourth quarter the way it needed to be opened, with a fallaway jumper. Crowder answered Gay with a long-two, and this game was back-and-fourth the rest of the way, after Rozier tied it up at 74.

Rudy then scores in isolation, two more of his seven in the quarter.

After Boston took a timeout, the Celtics came back with a big post-up move from Horford to tie at 76, then a layup from Jerebko to take the lead.

But tragically, the Kings took a major blow — after Ty Lawson collided with Demarcus Cousins while running for a lose-ball, hitting his face with an elbow.

Cousins would eventually head to the locker-room to stop the bleeding, and was able to come back before the game ended with a glued bandage.

And yes, it was game. While Demarcus was out, the Celtics were able to take full advantage on the helpless Kings, after Thomas finished inside for only one make of his six field-goal attempts in the quarter. Horford especially got a break, with 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 blocks.

With 3 minutes left, the game was still close, with Boston on top 89-85. Cousins returned, but couldn’t get much of anything to fall:

But the Kings weren’t letting up. Horford hit a three which looked close to a two, then Demarcus comes back to life, answering with one of his own to bring Sacramento to within three. The Celtics led 95-92 with 31.8 seconds remaining.

Sacramento had one last stop in them to get the ball back after forcing an Isaiah air-ball with 15 seconds left. They have it, and the game ended right about here:

Boston came out with the victory, but it was anyone’s game after the Kings made that comeback, being down 24-11 with four minutes left in the first. I just felt if he didn’t collide with Ty, we’d probably be looking at a far different outcome right now.

Cousins led all scorers with 28 points on 10-26 field-goals, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 4 blocks, with 2 turnovers and 4 personals.

FINAL TAKEAWAYS:

  • Horford led with 26 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals, and a season-high 6 rejections.
  • Thomas followed with 20 with 3 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals, but was 6-21 from the field and 0-6 from three.
  • Crowder finished with 16 (6-12 FG, 3-5 3-point), 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and a team-high plus/minus of 15.
  • Bradley with 15 points and 9 assists with 2 blocks.
  • Barnes was proficient on the stat-sheet, with 12 points, 16 rebounds, 5 dimes, 2 steals, and 1 block in 30 minutes. However, he shot just 3-11 from the floor.
  • Gay finished with 13, but shot 6-14 from the field with 6 turnovers.
  • Each team had 21 points off turnovers, and 23 lead changes.
  • The game was tied 12 times.
  • Boston’s largest lead was 13, while Sacramento’s was 5.
  • The Celtics had the edge in points in the paint, 42-34.

The Celtics (11-8) will play the Sixers on a second-game of a back-to-back, where it’s probable that their rising rookie Center Joel Embiid will rest.

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