Celts finish off road trip with win over Kings, 95-90

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Celts finish off road trip with win over Kings, 95-90

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

SACRAMENTO, Calif. The Boston Celtics seemed well on their way to continuing a disturbing trend, and that is to bring out the best in bad teams like the Sacramento Kings.

But even with the Kings stepping their game up Tuesday night, Boston still managed to pull away in the fourth quarter for a 95-90 victory.

With the victory, Boston (37-11) will finish with the best record by the Feb. 6 cut-off deadline, meaning Doc Rivers will coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars later this month.

But this game, like so many this season against sub-.500 teams, wasn't easy for Rivers and his ball club.

"We had Rivers' blood pressure up tonight," said Kevin Garnett. "Sometimes he needs that. But in all seriousness, I'm happy for him. Not only Doc, but his staff. We see the countless hours they put in."

And the fruits of that labor were on display against a Sacramento team that came in having won three of its last four games, which included a road win over two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.

After the starters put the C's in firm control in the first quarter, the second unit allowed the Kings to not just get back into the game, but take over.

In a matter of minutes, Boston fell behind by as many as 10 points to a team that had just as many wins on the season (12) as the C's had in the month of January (12).

Several players were bothered, but none seemed more irate than the usually subdued Ray Allen.

"Ray really doesn't say much at halftime, but he came out, kind of got on the guys," said Paul Pierce.

Whatever he said, it seemed to do the trick as the Celtics took Sacramento's control and seized it for themselves.

And at no time was this more apparent than the fourth quarter.

"The fourth quarter was a hustle quarter," Garnett said. "We got to a lot of loose balls and a lot of the 5050 game we want to win."

Down the stretch, the Celtics' late surge involved more than just the starting unit.

Nate Robinson and Kendrick Perkins came off the bench, with each contributing to Celtics closing out their West coast trip with a 3-1 record.

The Kings were one of the worst teams a year ago and they're on track to again be among the NBA's cellar dwellers. Still, Sacramento coach Paul Westphal was pleased with the way his team competed for most of Tuesday's game.

"Even though we lost that game, I really liked that game for our team," said Westphal, a former Celtics player. "I thought it was like a playoff game. I thought that both teams played extremely tough defense and made it hard for the other team to score. There was nothing easy about that game."

It never is for the Celtics when the opponent has a woeful record.

But the motivational factors to win on Tuesday were even more plentiful than usual.

There was the desire to close out the road trip with a winning record.

Boston was also coming off a 109-96 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, a game that to this point stands out as one of the Celtics' most impressive victories.

A loss to the Kings, according to Pierce, would have meant "that game in L.A. meant nothing."

Pierce added, "If you lose a game today in Sacramento after beating L.A., it's like it erases that game. We're trying to build a lead up in the Eastern Conference, first place and playing for home-court advantage. All these games are important."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Thomas becoming one of the NBA's best in the fourth quarter

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Thomas becoming one of the NBA's best in the fourth quarter

Isaiah Thomas has established himself as one of the NBA’s top players in the fourth quarter of games this season.

“I’d rather play that than any other quarter,” Thomas said.

But there will be times when the game’s flow or head coach Brad Stevens’ gut will tell him to go in a different direction with Thomas’ minutes which is something the two have had conversations about which has helped eliminate any confusion or misunderstandings.

“We’ve had player-coach talks, how he feels and how I feel,” Thomas said. “That’s the relationship we have. We changed it up a little bit (in the win over Sacramento) and I’m just happy we got the win.”

In that game, Thomas was replaced by Terry Rozier with 3:20 to play in the quarter and Boston trailing 66-63. He returned to the floor at the 8:31 mark and the Celtics were down 76-74.

“The key is, there are some times where you feel like those last few minutes of the third quarter will be real important moving forward,” Stevens told reporters prior to tonight’s game. “Especially based on how your team is playing. And you just have to make that decision. You have to make that decision, you take him out early in the third like we did (against Sacramento) and put him back in earlier; or play him through until the two or one-minute mark in the third, and then give him his rest up until the seven or six. Either way, we’ve talked about it like I do with all our guys, especially the guys that are playing and big in the rotation.

Stevens would love to come up with a game plan and stick to it with little to no changes being made.

But the NBA game is unpredictable and his job as the head coach is to make the necessary on-the-fly changes that best position the Celtics for victory.

“Ultimately there will be days that it will be very consistent and there might be a time or two where I’m gonna go with my gut,” Stevens said. “They know that and we’ve talked about it.”

And while Stevens’ decision may not sit well with some, players understand it’s all done to achieve one goal – win. 

“There’s a number of reasons why you make a decision to leave someone in or take someone out,” Stevens said. “Ultimately, we have to figure out game to game, moment to moment, what’s best for our team. That’s what I’m charged with. That doesn’t mean I’m always right. I’m not gonna act like that. Ultimately, those guys know I’m thinking about it all the time.”

C's Mickey sent to D-League

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C's Mickey sent to D-League

Jordan Mickey, inactive in five of the Boston Celtics’ last six games, has been assigned to the Maine Red Claws of the Development League.

“He’s been inactive in a few of these games here,” Stevens told reporters prior to tonight’s game at Philadelphia. “And rather than being inactive and being here in a suit and tie, we knew there was a hockey game this afternoon and it was going to be unlikely to get much action on the court at all today. So it made a lot more sense to play for a couple days and fly down to Houston and meet us.”

Mickey has appeared in just eight games this season, averaging 2.2 points and 1.8 rebounds while shooting 47.1 percent from the field.

Tonight will be the former second-round pick’s 10th missed game this season, five in which he did not play (coaches decision) and another five in which he will be inactive.

The lack of playing time for the second-year player has more to do with Boston’s depth in the frontcourt than anything specific to his game.

“He’s done a good job,” Stevens said of Mickey. “It’s the same old thing that last year although we’re not quite as deep at that spot. But it’s still, at the end of the day we have to make a decision of, are we going to play more traditional or are we going to slide like a Jonas (Jerebko) or Jae (Crowder) over to the four (power forward) and play more spaced which limits the amount of bigs you can have in a game.

Stevens added, “he’s done a good job.  He’s made progress. I don’t think there’s any question we think he’s a guy that can help us not only down the road but this year.”

Mickey is in the lineup for the Red Claws’ game tonight against Santa Cruz and he’s also scheduled to play in Sunday’s game against the Raptors 905 with both games being televised via Facebook Live.