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KINGS 127, CELTICS 111

Kings rule in rout of Celtics

SACRAMENTO -- The Celtics are well-versed in the effectiveness of the 3-point shot as a demoralizing offensive weapon. They spent years using it, sometimes with devastating results under former coach Jim O'Brien. But last night at ARCO Arena, they spent much of the game watching helplessly as Sacramento used the 3-point shot to dominate.

Hitting 53 percent from the arc (16 for 30) the Kings defeated the Celtics, 127-111. The Kings also shot 56 percent overall from the field.

What else would you expect from the best offensive team in the NBA?

"There's a reason they're No. 1 in all the shooting categories," said Celtics interim coach John Carroll. "They made a lot of shots that the average team wouldn't make. But I'm not saying we played defense the way we needed to.

"The guys played hard the whole game even though they didn't play very well. They didn't stop playing; we just could never string together enough defensive stops to be able to even be close."

The Celtics had their work cut out with the Kings, who had the best field goal percentage in the league (47 percent), the best 3-point percentage (40 percent), and the highest scoring average (105.1) at the All-Star break.

By the end of the third quarter, Sacramento already had six players in double figures. Shortly after the fourth quarter started, the Kings passed the 100-point mark as their lead hovered around the 20-point mark.

Peja Stojakovic (28 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds) and Vlade Divac (14 points, 11 assists, 11 rebounds) had particularly impressive all-around games. Paul Pierce (27 points) and Ricky Davis (32 points on 11-for-12 shooting) led the scoring for the Celtics, who shot 44 percent from the floor. Pierce left the game with 6 minutes 12 seconds remaining, grimacing in pain and clutching his right hip. He returned with 4:51 left, but the Celtics were trailing, 114-101, and they never posed a threat down the stretch. "The thing about them is they make tough shots," said Pierce. "That's what makes them one of the elite teams. They play so well together, it doesn't matter who's on the court with them."

Added Davis, "I just tried to get my points with efficient shots. No forced shots. But it's damn near impossible [to stop them] when they're shooting that well. It's hard to defense, but that is why they pay us all that money."

With the loss to start this four-game West Coast swing, the Celtics dropped nine games below .500 (23-32). They have lost three straight and 9 of 10. It could be a very long trip.

Sacramento went 8 for 13 from 3-point range in the first half, which went a long way toward the home team's 61-47 lead at the break.

The Celtics provided a marked contrast to the Kings' fluid offense in the first half, shooting 37 percent and going 2 for 7 from the arc. Although Pierce, Walter McCarty, and Mark Blount led the team in scoring, they struggled from the field, going a combined 10 for 30. The one positive the Celtics could take away from the first half was the fact that they committed just two turnovers, neither of which Sacramento turned into points.

The Kings used a 5-0 spurt to establish a 15-point lead with 9:29 left in the half. The visitors decreased the deficit on a couple of occasions but couldn't get it below double digits. Sacramento led by as many as 17 points in the second quarter.

In the third quarter, the Kings stretched a 14-point lead to a 22-point advantage (93-71) when Doug Christie found Divac for a 17-footer. The basket capped a 12-6 Sacramento run, and the Kings finished the third ahead, 99-82. "Anybody who's on a losing streak, it's tough," said McCarty. "We just have to find a way to win. We do play hard, We just don't play smart."

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