Final, Kings 118-96: After a mostly underwhelming game in his would-be audition for the Celtics, DeMarcus Cousins somehow picked up a sneaky triple-double. Whether that says good things or bad things about the third-year center is open to debate.
Cousins’ 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists were hardly the highlight for the Kings (11-19). Isaiah Thomas dropped 27 points on the Celtics (14-16), the third time in three games that an opposing point guard has had a field goal against them, and Jason Thompson scored 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting.
The Kings scored 56 points in the paint, draining half of their 20 attempts from beyond the arc and shooting 25 free throws to the Celtics’ 19. The Kings normally shoot 36 percent from deep and have a minus-3.3 free throws per game differential.
Paul Pierce and Jason Terry led the Celtics in scoring with 20 points each and Kevin Garnett provided 16 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, but nobody’s contributions were consistent. Jeff Green, who has 14 points at halftime, managed just two more points the rest of the way.
The Grizzlies, the fourth-seeded team in a tough Western Conference, visit on Wednesday. Welp.
Fourth quarter, 3:25, Kings 109-88: Whatever happens in the rest of this game, Pierce probably will not be around for it. Pierce came up lame while fouling Thomas on a 3-pointer and pogoed to the bench. Talk about adding injury to insult.
Fourth quarter, 5:57, Kings 97-84: Garnett has logged 28 minutes, so it was not a surprise to see him head to the bench with more than six minutes to go in this game. If the Celtics could slice into the deficit a little, maybe a fresh Garnett could make a difference down the stretch.
Then again, cutting into the deficit is easier said than done. After Pierce pulled Boston within 11 points with back-to-back buckets, Thomas breezed past Bass for a layup.
Fourth quarter, 8:21, Kings 90-77: If this was some Celtics fans’ first look at Cousins, they might come away unimpressed. Even as Cousins has been limited to eight points on 3-for-10 shooting, though, his teammates have been impressive.
Thomas joined Thompson in the 20-point club with a corner three, followed a few minutes later by a three by Johnson from the other corner. In related news, does any team have more generic names than the Kings? The whole roster is a sea of Thompsons, Johnsons, Thomases, Robinsons, Hayeses… You know, everyday, ordinary names. Like Fredette.
End of third quarter, Kings 84-73: Sullinger and Green have given the Celtics a bump off the bench, and Garnett has been outstanding as usual, but the Celtics have not been consistent enough on defense to make any of that matter.
Thomas and Thompson are living in the lane, with Thompson at 20 points after three quarters and Thomas just two points shy of 20. John Salmons has even chipped in 18 points on a steady midrange jumper, with decent defense on Pierce, who has had to work for his 13 points.
The Celtics scored two field goals in the final six minutes, allowing the Kings to run more or less unabated to a 13-point lead, their largest of the game.
Third quarter, 4:58, Kings 72-63: Carelessness is not typically a Celtics trait, but Bass and Pierce combined for an utterly careless play that left Rivers hanging his head.
Needing to inbound the ball on a side-out — seriously, it was that simple — Pierce threw a bad pass and Bass failed to come to the ball. Thompson rather easily knocked the pass down and dribbled to the other end, where he was fouled by Bass.
Thompson’s free throw was part of a personal 5-2 run for the forward. A jumper by Salmons gave the Kings their largest lead since the first quarter.
Third quarter, 7:40, Kings 62-57: Once the Celtics closed the gap, they suddenly decided to go back to the ways that got them in a hole to begin with. After Pierce and Garnett scored baskets at the rim, the next two Boston shots were 3-pointers, and both of those shots missed.
The Celtics’ inconsistency with their approach and their failure to stick with what is working has been a fixable trend for them in the last three weeks.
Third quarter, 9:20, Kings 59-57: One thing Cousins should receive credit for is his respect for his elders among elite big men. Cousins is known to admire Tim Duncan’s game, and he does not seem to pull any funny business when he faces off with Garnett.
As well he should not. Garnett showed that at 36 years old, he still is not ready to cede the limelight to a young gun like Cousins. Garnett has scored six points as part of a small flurry by the Celtics to begin the second half and close within two points.
Halftime, Kings 54-49: The Celtics would probably be doing a lot better if they were not giving the Kings free layups every time up the floor.
All right, so the Celtics are not letting the Kings score. It just feels like it. The Kings scored 38 points in the paint in the first half — or just 11 less than the Celtics scored, as a team, total.
Surprisingly, Cousins was not even the player doing the bulk of the damage. Thompson led the Kings with 13 points, while Salmons and Thomas, who combined for 21 points, also did a lot of damage around the hoop. The Celtics have gotten 14 points each from Terry and Green, much-needed breakout games for two key guys that have struggled off late.
Second quarter, 3:59, Kings 44-38: Jason Terry has rediscovered his shooting touch, and not a moment too soon for the Celtics. Boston will need everything Terry has to keep in step with a spry Kings squad.
Terry drained his second 3-pointer of the game, his fifth basket in six attempts, to briefly give the Celtics a two-point lead. But the Kings used some stellar defense, particularly by James Johnson, to generate three straight fastbreak layups to waltz into the lead.
Pierce, off to another rough start offensively, must not have checked the scouting report. Johnson is a solid on-ball defender, but Pierce keeps trying to force the issue, leading to just one basket, two missed shots and a turnover in this quarter alone. (We know, we know. Pierce almost definitely read the scouting report. Just being facetious.)
Second quarter, 9:43, Celtics 26-24: Jeff Green’s early signs usually are not worth much. He can get off to a hot start and then disappear, or start slowly and then end up dunking on everything in sight. That said, the Celtics had to be encouraged by Green initiating contact and getting seven free throw attempts already.
End of first quarter, Kings 24-18: Rondo got taken to the cleaners by Chris Paul earlier in the week, but that was, you know, Chris Paul. Rondo’s thigh must really be bothering him, though, because Thomas is giving the Celtics point guard quite a show as well.
Thomas has 10 points and has missed only one shot after 12 minutes at the horribly named Sleep Train Arena. He’s been very good. Paul Pierce, meanwhile, has been the opposite. It would be tough for Pierce to match the 4-for-20 shooting performance in Oakland, but he is off to almost as rough a start. Pierce missed all but one of the four shots he took in the first quarter.
First quarter, 2:55, Kings 18-10: With all the attention — positive and negative — given to Cousins, it is easy to forget that the Kings have a couple of other pretty cool players. Isaiah Thomas, a waterbug point guard, has fought his way back into the starting lineup after a surprising rookie year, and Jason Thompson, a hard-working forward out of little Rider University in new Jersey, are consummate young pros for Sacramento.
Thompson and Thomas have shot 7-for-9 for 14 points combined, helping the Kings build as much as a 10-point lead in the early going.
First quarter, 5:55, Kings 14-7: If his character was not in question, any team in the NBA would take Cousins in a hot second.
The young big man showed off his full skill set by reading a pass by Rondo, jumping into the passing lane for a steal and outrunning everyone to the other end of the court for an uncontested layup. This kid can play.
8:32 p.m.: As if there were any doubt following Saturday’s debacle, Rajon Rondo is expected to suit up on Sunday night. The Celtics point guard watched all of Saturday’s loss to Golden State and must have realized how much the team needed him, even if he is limited with a bruised thigh.
DeMarcus Cousins is also expected to be active, which is no small achievement of late. Cousins made his return Friday after a seven-day team-imposed suspension for insubordination to coach Keith Smart, and the third-year center had 15 points and 10 rebounds in a win over the Knicks.
Leandro Barbosa apparently is ready to go for the Celtics, too, but Kings guard Tyreke Evans will miss his seventh straight game as he nurses a sore left knee.
The projected starters appear below.
8 a.m. ET: A horrendous road trip can end on an up note if the Celtics pull off the very achievable goal of beating the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night. Well, normally that goal would be achievable. Even in their current state, the Celtics (14-15) would figure to have an easy time dismissing the Kings (10-19). Nothing is certain with the Celtics at the moment, though.
Celtics fans will harbor dreams of the Celtics leaving the California state capital with a new power forward, but DeMarcus Cousins is still a King, for now. As the Kings’ immensely talented problem child creates more headaches in Sacramento, some observers are wondering if it is time for Cousins to be dealt — and if Boston could be a logical destination.
For now, keep an eye on Rajon Rondo, who missed Saturday’s game against Golden State and is said to be questionable against the Kings. Leandro Barbosa was reportedly headed to join the team early in case Rondo could not go Sunday.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 9 p.m. ET.