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Fast Break: Celtics Sac’d by upstart Kings

03.17.12 at 12:29 am ET
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Through three games of their West Coast road trip, the Celtics gave admirable efforts (even in Sunday’s tough loss to the Lakers). Friday night, Boston couldn’t keep it going. Despite Tyreke Evans being out of the lineup for the Kings because of a sprained left ankle injury, the Celtics were blown out, 120-95.

The 120 points Boston relented was a season-high. For the Kings, Marcus Thorton picked up the void left by Evans, scoring 36 points (13-of-24 shooting) and Jason Thompson scored 21 points (9-of-11 shooting) and grabbed 15 rebounds. Ray Allen scored 26 points for Boston (9-of-16 shooting, 5-of-10 from 3-point territory).

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Waiving the White Flag: Thursday, during an appearance on “The Big Show,” Doc Rivers said if his team was able to get a cushion in games that he would try to give his starters some rest. Midway through the fourth quarter Friday night, the opposite occurred and the Celtics found themselves out of range for a comeback. That being the case, Rivers was wise to take advantage of the situation and sit his starters in the final five-plus minutes, especially with a match-up looming against the Nuggets in 24 hours.

Block Party: Because of injuries to the front court, Doc Rivers is forced to give significant minutes to Greg Stiemsma. The Celtics’ brass is searching for another body to fill the void, but until then, Stiemsma is the first big man off the bench.

Over the course of the year, the 26 year-old rookie has flashed a keen ability to block shots, even registering six blocks in his first appearance against the Hornets in the beginning of the season. Friday night was no different. Stiemsma had three first-half blocks (as a team Boston had five total) and altered many other close range attempts by the Kings.

Forcing the issue: The Celtics were careless with the basketball, shot poorly and had long stretches where they just weren’t scoring at all. In short, there wasn’t much to like about their performance.

Still, one encouraging sign was their willingness to drive to the basket. Early on Boston was able to hang around by getting to the line. At one point in the first half, the Celtics had 16 free throw attempts, while Sacramento only went to the line seven times. This disparity, obviously, did not outweigh the Celtics’ other shortcomings in a blowout loss.

As the game progressed, the free throw margin decreased, but the attacking mentality is something the Celtics need to maintain during their road-heavy schedule the rest of the way.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Rondo’d: Rajon Rondo relishes match-ups against other top-tier point guards. While it’s unlikely Evans’ absence impacted his lukewarm night, Rondo struggled mightily. He scored only four points (2-of-9 shooting), had four turnovers and registered a plus/minus of -20.

Four Minutes To Forget: It’s tough to imagine what was said in the Celtics’ locker room at halftime. The veteran squad had an uneven first-half performance, letting a young Sacramento team stick around. With that said, the Celtics only found themselves trailing by one at halftime, 52-51.

In the first four minutes of the third quarter, however, the Celtics scored precisely one point, which reflected none of their own initiative, instead coming on a DeMarcus Cousins technical foul (surprise, surprise!). During that stretch the Kings scored 17 points en route to outscoring Boston 41-23 in the quarter. This put the Celtics into a hole they would never climb out of.

Where Caring Doesn’t Happen: Sure, the Kings shot well from the field at 53.5 percent. A huge part of that efficiency can be explained by the Celtics’ carelessness with the basketball, which created opportunities for easy buckets. The Celtics had 17 turnovers and, to their credit, the Kings had 12 steals.

Dead Legs: The Kings are a young team with fresh legs and thrive in transition. The Celtics are a group of cerebral veterans, better suited to the half-court. The Kings, largely due to the Boston’s carelessness, were able to impose their style Friday night. At one point, the Kings held a 16-0 advantage on fast break points. By the end of the game, the difference was 32-17.

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