Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, California
Officials: #47 Bennie Adams, #44 Brett Nansel, #28 Kevin Scott
SACRAMENTO – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – They were without their leading scorer and rebounder. They lost one of their two starting guards to an injury before they’d played one half. And both things happened on a night when their former starting point guard — the one creating MVP conversation — was on the opposite side.
So naturally the Sacramento Kings played one of their best games of the season.
“That’s got to be one of our top three or four,” center Willie Cauley-Stein said after the Kings blitzed the Boston Celtics 108-92 at the Golden 1 Center on Wednesday night. “Gotta be.”
Without suspended forward DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings (21-32) snapped Boston’s seven-game winning streak and earned only their third win in their past 11 home games. They blew open a close game in the fourth quarter with a 16-1 run and enjoyed a rare easy romp to the finish.
Darren Collison scored 26 points and proved to be better than Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, the man he replaced in Sacramento. The Kings needed every bit of it after losing fellow guard Ty Lawson to a left hamstring injury with just under 6 minutes left in the first half.
Thomas, the NBA’s second-leading scorer and former Kings draft pick, also scored 26 points, but he made only 6 of 16 shots and committed three turnovers. He has scored at least 20 points in 36 consecutive games, four shy of John Havlicek’s team record.
The Celtics had 17 turnovers overall in losing the opener of a four-game Western Conference trip.
“It’s disappointing,” Thomas said. “It’s probably our worst loss of the season. … Defending, offensively, everything. Tonight was one of those nights.”
Normally, such words stream from the Kings’ clubhouse. They did Wednesday, when Sacramento responded to an overtime victory over the Golden State Warriors by falling behind 27 points in an eventual loss to the Chicago Bulls. Cousins blew his fuse at the end, earning his 16th technical foul and an automatic one-game suspension.
In his place, both Cauley-Stein and forward Matt Barnes scored 14 points off the bench. Barnes added 11 rebounds as did starting center Kosta Koufos. Guard Ben McLemore connected on 7 of 12 shots and totaled 17 points, also off the bench.
But Collison made it hum. He made 12 of 21 shots, added five assists and provided the game’s most notable highlight with a blind over-the-shoulder alley-oop lob that Cauley-Stein threw down for a dunk in the fourth quarter.
“It’s so much fun playing like that,” Cauley-Stein said. “Getting everybody locked in and engaged and involved. When we play like that, it’s really fun.”
The night did not appear to be heading in a fun direction for the Kings, when Lawson injured himself in the second quarter. He walked straight to the locker room shortly after taking a jumper, and television cameras showed him in the tunnel clutching his left hamstring. The team diagnosed the injury as a strain, and Lawson will have an MRI exam Thursday.
“I did a step-back jump shot and felt a pinch,” he said. “I’ve never really pulled my hamstring before so I ran down the court and tried to stop again, and I felt the same thing. I just eased up and walked off. … It’s not bad.”
Lawson’s status for Friday’s home game against the Atlanta Hawks will be evaluated Thursday. The Kings already were without guard Garrett Temple (partially torn hamstring) and forwards Omri Casspi (calf tendon strain) and Rudy Gay (season-ending Achilles’ injury).
Amir Johnson added 14 points for Boston, which opened a four-game Western Conference road trip by having its longest winning streak since February 2013 snapped. Boston, which made an average 13.4 3-pointers during the winning streak, made 10 of 32 attempts against Sacramento.
“It was bad,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “We were bad turning the ball over. Our offensive decision-making wasn’t very good all night. … Then for the better part of three quarters, we let them do what they wanted to do.”
NOTES: Kings F DeMarcus Cousins was fined $25,000 by the league for making an obscene gesture toward a fan during a Feb. 4 win over the Warriors, and the Sacramento Bee reported that he has now been fined $150,000 for various infractions this season — $50,000 of it for technical fouls. Cousins also missed a game check for his one-game suspension Wednesday, reported by the Bee to be $192,152. … Cousins will be suspended for one game for every second technical foul he receives the rest of this season. The Kings have 29 games left. … Celtics G Isaiah Thomas averaged 15.3 points and 4.8 assists in 216 games over three seasons with Sacramento before the Kings dealt him to Phoenix for F Alex Oriakhi in June 2014. Oriakhi, currently playing professionally in Mexico, hasn’t suited up in the NBA. … Celtics G Avery Bradley (Achilles strain) will not return until after the All-Star break.