In their first game after the All-Star break, the Celtics (33-18) got off to a poor start against the surprisingly energetic Sacramento Kings but managed to pull out a win behind a sterling first-half performance from the bench.
The reserve attack was led by Glen Davis, who nabbed six rebounds (eight total) in 10:25 during the first half. Rasheed Wallace tallied 10 first-half points in just 9:36 on 4-for-4 shooting, finishing with 17.
Both teams showcased third-quarter jitters, as the Kings went without a basket in the final 4:36 of the frame. Sacramento made some noise in the fourth to grab an 85-84 lead and cause heart palpitations all over New England, but then Paul Pierce — the 3-point contest victor during the NBA All-Star Skills Contest — sent a dagger into the voracious Kings crowd with 1:38 remaining. Boston held on, bolstered by costly free-throw misses by the Kings, to claim a 95-92 victory.
While Boston certainly gets credit for a win here, it's concerning that the C's had so much trouble containing the 18-35 Kings. If Sacramento hadn't missed seven of nine free throws late in the fourth quarter (and one that went in was supposed to be an intentional miss) — and if they didn't get so thoroughly dominated in the paint — the C's would be leaving with their heads hanging down. Their next few opponents won't give the game away as easily as Sacramento did, so there is cause for concern here for a team that has gone 10-13 since Christmas.
Headliner: Rasheed Wallace hasn't had too many fans on his side during his tenure with Boston. He's racked up technical fouls like it's his job and oftentimes takes 3s simply to take them. On Tuesday, however, it was the Sheed Show.
Wallace was perfect in six attempts from the free-throw line, swishing two crucial ones with 15.4 seconds left in the game. How crucial? Sacramento rookie phenom Tyreke Evans (17 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists) followed up with a 3-pointer to draw within one.
Wallace's 17 points tied Pierce for the team lead, but Wallace nabbed all his points in almost 10 fewer minutes than No. 34. He added five rebounds, three blocks and a steal.
Unsung Hero: Israeli Omri Casspi, one of Sacramento's bright young stars, notched 19 points for the Kings. The 21-year-old played with tremendous energy, adding six rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals to his tally. He must work on his free-throw shooting, however, as his 2-for-6 showing at the line was a major reason the Kings lost the game.
Scrub: Kendrick Perkins just isn't hacking it as of late. In the last three games before the All-Star break, the behemoth shot just 4-for-13 for 12 points. He wasn't much better the first game after the break, making 2-of-7 and turning the ball over twice.
Perkins' slump might be what ends up squashing the Wallace trade rumors. Perhaps Sheed is finally finding his role with the team.
Turning Point: With 3:58 left in the first quarter, Wallace was the game's first substitution, coming in for Perkins. Marquis Daniels, Eddie House and Glen Davis quickly followed, and Boston suddenly started playing with more energy. The bench would play a pivotal role for the remainder of the game, finishing with 44 points collectively.
Up Next: The Celtics will get a day's break before locking horns with the Los Angeles Lakers hours after the trade deadline on Thursday. (Will Nate Robinson be wearing green by then?) The Lakers have the best record in the Western Conference, but the defending NBA champions are banged up. Kobe Bryant missed his fourth straight game Tuesday with an aggravated sprained ankle and he is questionable for Thursday's game.
Los Angeles will, however, have its young center, Andrew Bynum. He missed two straight games with a bruised right hip but came back Tuesday night.
The Celtics then will duke it out with the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets before finally getting home cooking again against the Knicks on Feb. 23.