For a good, solid 30 minutes of their Tuesday night tilt with the Western Conference bottom-feeders, the Celtics' focus just wasn't there. Maybe they left it in Los Angeles, where they had just wrapped up an impressive win over the defending champs 48 hours before. Maybe it was already looking ahead to a daunting homestand, with the Mavericks and Magic coming to town.
Whatever the case, it didn't look like the notion of beating the Kings had even occurred to them. If it happened, it happened, but the C's couldn't have been bothered to try.
Then something snapped. Kevin Garnett came up with an emphatic block of an attempted Samuel Dalembert dunk with 7:45 left in the third quarter, and he leapt into the air hooting, hollering and pumping his fists (and perhaps drooling, too, although that can't be confirmed). All of a sudden, the Celtics were fired up. You could see it.
Not long after, the C's rattled off an 8-0 run to take the lead. Then Ray Allen hit a few big shots, and then Doc Rivers finally got his guys to focus on putting together stops. Suddenly the Kings were dead as doornails in a game they'd once led by double digits.
It wasn't pretty, but the Celtics got the win. They finished their West Coast road trip 3-1, including a win over the champs from L.A. and a couple of gritty victories over Portland and now Sacramento.
The Kings are a trap game waiting to happen. If you overlook them, they've got a core group of young, gifted athletes that can beat you. Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins are no slouches. The Blazers, Lakers and Hornets have all learned this lesson the hard way over the last eight days.
The Celtics were in danger of becoming the Kings' next victim. Their play looked flat and uninspired for the first two and a half quarters, especially on the second unit. They weren't moving the ball, they weren't playing together. They weren't really trying.
They turned things around just in time. They won the 50-50 game in the second half, working hard to hustle for the loose balls. They got energetic play from Nate Robinson, of all people, who remained in the game to play crunch time in place of Rajon Rondo. And down the stretch, they got a deluge of big buckets from Allen and Glen Davis.
Beating the Kings should be easier than this, on paper. But after the way this young Sacramento team has stepped up over the last week, the Celtics should be happy with a win. Any win. And since it's the icing on the cake for a successful four-game road trip, even better.