The Celtics  needed a game like this. They not only needed a win after losing two straight, they also needed a win on a night when they played well. That they were able to accomplish this by playing only one great quarter won’t make Doc Rivers  completely happy, but he will take it. And that third quarter was pretty great.
In a 119-95 win over the Kings, the Celtics outscored their visitors 33-18 in the third quarter and shot 71 percent while turning it over only three times. Eight different Celtics scored in the quarter and no one had more than six points or five shots.
That’s how they want to play and for one night at least, Rivers’ message was heard.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Paul Pierce  sets the tone: The captain came out and delivered 25 points in 25 minutes on 10-for-14 shooting with six rebounds and three assists. Pierce had 15 of his points in the first quarter getting the Celtics off to a strong start. He was content to pick his spots after that initial outburst.
Third quarter run: The Celtics started off hot, but cooled a bit in the second quarter, allowing the Kings to hang around. They left little doubt in the third quarter opening up an 22-point lead. This was exactly what the Celtics needed because the Kings weren’t able to come back twice and the lead allowed Rivers to rest his starters.
Semih Erden to the rescue: Without Kevin Garnett  and Jermaine O’Neal, and with Shaquille O’Neal  dealing with foul trouble (see below), the Celtics needed Semih Erden and he responded with 10 points and a career-high eight rebounds in 33 minutes.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Jermaine O’Neal’s knee swelled up: The news that Garnett will probably miss Friday’s game as well  will fuel talk that the Celtics are hiding a more serious injury, but from the beginning there was never a clear timeframe for his return. O’Neal missing the game because of lingering problems with his knee , was a complete surprise, however.
O’Neal hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the fans yet, but the fact remains that when he has played he has given the Celtics a much-needed shot blocking presence and superior depth at the center position. Without him the Celtics are seriously thin with Shaquille O’Neal only able to play about 20 minutes a night.
Rivers said he was ‘concerned’ about the latest development and he should be.
Shaq’s foul trouble: On Christmas Day, Shaquille O’Neal made reference to the refereeing abilities of Bob Delaney who fouled him out after just 22 minutes. It was probably just a coincidence, but Delaney whistled Shaq for an offensive foul giving him four early in the third quarter. Shaq played just 14 minutes, contributing two points and one rebound and continuing his string of forgettable games.