Celtics get royal beating from Kings, 118-96

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Celtics get royal beating from Kings, 118-96

SACRAMENTO The Boston Celtics capped off their West coast trip exactly how it began - with a loss.

And this one was arguably the worst of the bunch as the C's suffered a 118-96 defeat to the Sacramento Kings, one of the worst teams in the NBA.

And the blueprint for this defeat wasn't all that different than the previous two for a Boston (14-16) team that is now two games below .500 since opening the season with a pair of losses.

Boston got behind early. They mounted a slew of mini-comebacks, but failed to get that one big shot or make that one clutch defensive stand to swing the game's momentum in their favor.

Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas poured in a game-high 27 points. And the troubled DeMarcus Cousins, a player the Celtics are rumored to be interested in possibly making a play for, had his first career triple-double - 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

Boston was led by Paul Pierce and Jason Terry who each had 20 points.

After a relatively close first half, the Kings began to pull away in the third quarter. Following a pull-up jumper by John Salmons that gave Sacramento a 72-63 lead, Doc Rivers had seen enough and called a time-out.

He may have temporarily stopped play, but it didn't do much to stem the game's flow which was clearly in Sacramento's favor.

The Kings soon pushed their lead to double digits and took a 12-point lead into the fourth quarter that was never threatened.

Even with Rajon Rondo returning to the lineup after missing Saturday's Golden State loss with a right hipthigh injury, it didn't matter.

This team, regardless of who is healthy and who isn't, consistently finds ways to lose.

Poor shooting was the culprit that put them in a deep hole on Sunday, as the C's missed 11 of their first 13 shots and soon found themselves down 14-7.

But these were the Kings, one of the league's worst teams despite having won five of their last six at home heading into Sunday's game.

A jumper by Brandon Bass followed by a pair of free throws by Jeff Green cut Sacramento's lead to 18-12 with 2:27 to play in the first.

Boston even went with a little full court pressure to keep the Kings from getting into their offense too quickly.

It was a good idea if the C's could have avoided fouling Thomas on a driving attempt.

The second quarter saw the Celtics do what Doc Rivers has been imploring his shooters to do all season - attack the rim.

And will you look at that?

Boston's 24-18 deficit to start the second quarter became a two-point lead with an 8-0 start fueled by drives to the basket and free throws.

The Celtics got a strong game from Green who was leading the Celtics' attacking style of play in the second quarter. Green along with a hot-shooting Jason Terry each had 14 first-half points for the C's while the Kings got strong first-half performances from Jason Thompson (13 points, five rebounds), John Salmons (11 points) and Thomas (10 points, two assists.)

The two continued to go back and fourth most of the second which ended with the Kings ahead 54-49.

But those moments of stellar play for Boston were so few and far between, reminding all of just how far the Celtics have truly fallen this season.

Knicks' Noah suspended 20 games by NBA for drug policy violation

Knicks' Noah suspended 20 games by NBA for drug policy violation

NEW YORK - Joakim Noah of the New York Knicks has been suspended 20 games without pay for violating the league’s anti-drug policy.

The NBA announced the suspension Saturday, saying Noah tested positive for Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator LGD-4033 – something that can be found in over-the-counter supplements.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports first reported the suspension.

Noah has not played since Feb. 4 and was likely to miss the Knicks’ final 10 games this season because of a knee injury. The NBA said Noah’s suspension will begin with the ”first NBA regular season or playoff game for which he is eligible and physically able to play.”

Noah is in the first year of a four-year, $72 million contract. He and the Knicks (27-45) have been a disappointment this season. He averaged 5.0 points and 8.7 rebounds in 46 games this season, and has been limited to 75 games over the past two seasons.

Haggerty: Legacies on the line at edge of another Bruins collapse

Haggerty: Legacies on the line at edge of another Bruins collapse

BRIGHTON, Mass – Let’s start with the straight fact that it’s asinine, apologist drivel to let the Bruins off the hook, and perpetuate an off-the-mark myth there isn’t enough talent on the B's roster to be a playoff hockey team.

They are middle-of-the-road in the talent department to be sure, and the roster depth clearly isn’t what it was in their elite years, as the Bruins balance an aging core group with an influx of youthful talent from the next generation. But this is also a proud, talented group with one of the best all-around centers in the NHL in Patrice Bergeron, a former Norris Trophy winner and future Hall of Fame defenseman in Zdeno Chara, a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate and in-his-prime All-Star left winger in Brad Marchand, an emerging 20-year-old offensive superstar in David Pastrnak and a former Vezina Trophy winning goaltender still in his prime in Tuukka Rask.

That doesn’t even mention high-end players David Krejci, David Backes and Torey Krug that are game-changing talents in their own right.

Combine that with the other players on the Bruins roster and this is a team interspersed with proud Stanley Cup winning players and enough talent to still take care of business in the final eight games and punch their playoff ticket. Winning a Cup in 2011 can never be taken away from Chara, Krejci, Bergeron, Marchand, Rask and Adam McQuaid, and neither can the seven straight seasons in the playoffs under Claude Julien.

But there’s a danger now of some late-in-the-game tarnish on Black and Gold legacies for some of those distinguished, proud players if they once again collapse down the stretch this season and miss the playoffs for the third year in a row with a late-season nosedive. Four consecutive regulation losses have cast doubt into everything for the Bruins and roused all the same old uncomfortable questions from the past three years.

Bergeron and Marchand need to find their best games and dominate the way elite players do in big-game situations like Saturday night vs. the Isles. Pastrnak, Brandon Carlo and Frank Vatrano need to show they're ready for the playoffs.Rask needs to finally show he's ready to shine as a No. 1 goalie and lead his team to victory in a big game rather than buckle under weighty pressure. 

“This is their legacy, those guys. They are Stanley Cup champions and they missed last year. Each year we talk about writing our own story, and I believe that because guys come and go,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “But generally there is a core group of guys and it’s their legacy. I’m sure they want to reach the playoffs and get back to being a Stanley Cup contender every year.

“That’s what they want and to a man I’m sure they would tell you that. I do believe that they believe it’s different [this season]. Until you change the course of your results, those questions are going to come. We have to change the results to make then go away. One week of not getting results that we want doesn’t mean we’re panicking, but we do understand what’s at stake. We want to be playing in April and May.”

If the Bruins can’t pull out a win on Saturday night against the Islanders, who just pushed even with them at 82 points on the season, then their playoff lives will no longer be under their own control anymore. It will become another late-season choke job by a team that will have its character and courage questioned. The highs of six years ago will be matched by the bitter lows of the past three seasons.

People won’t talk about a scrappy, little underdog Bruins team that just couldn’t get over the hump once again. Instead, they’ll lament a formerly proud, tough-minded group of hockey players that somehow turned into NHL tomato cans all too willing to play the victim once the going got tough late in the regular season.

That’s no way to go out if you’ve ever had your name etched on Lord Stanley’s Cup, and the Bruins that know better should be taking that to heart right now.