Celtics storm their way past weary Sacramento
Doc Rivers didn’t mind the misses. And in the first quarter of a 119-95 win over the Kings last night at TD Garden, the Celtics had plenty of them.
Layups, runners, jumpers, floaters.
But Rivers wasn’t watching the results, he was watching the energy.
The Celtics took 28 shots in the quarter, setting the tone and forcing a gassed Sacramento team to match it.
“The shots were everywhere, and the movement, it’s funny, we were shooting under 50 percent but it looked great,’’ Rivers said. “And you just thought that with this team if it looked great, it’ll be great eventually.’’
Eventually rolled around once Paul Pierce decided to dig in, drilling a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter but also shoving his way through the paint for three tough layups, leaving footprints all over the Kings’ defense.
He scored 15 points in the quarter, putting the offense on his back after a dry spell in which the Celtics missed eight straight shots.
From the second quarter on, Boston shot 55.8 percent, and Sacramento couldn’t keep up.
“We had an amazing pace,’’ said Rivers. “We’re pushing the ball up the floor. I don’t know how many just point-blank layups and wide-open shots. And I told them, ‘Don’t worry about offense. If we keep doing exactly what we did and keep the pace, we’ll be good.’ ’’
Trying to avoid a three-game slide, the Celtics couldn’t have been happier to see the Kings.
Not only were they hapless to begin with, having lost 11 straight on the road, but the circumstances didn’t help, either.
At some point, the overtime loss to the Wizards Tuesday night, the two-hour wait on the tarmac, the turbulent flight to Boston, and the absence of star guard Tyreke Evans (bad ankle) were all going to catch up to the Kings.
The Celtics were unsympathetic. Pierce dropped a game-high 25 points, leading eight Celtics in double figures, as Boston won its seventh straight over Sacramento.
“Paul knew last game that none of us as a group came with the right mental approach,’’ Rivers said. “That’s what leaders have to do, and that’s what he did.’’
The Celtics are still awaiting the return of Kevin Garnett (strained calf), and in his absence they have been scattershot on defense. The Rockets ran up 108 points in the Garden Monday night, leaving Rivers disappointed, not just in the performance but in the effort.
Last night, the Kings shot 51.4 percent. But the Celtics won the rebounding battle (38-37), stomped through the paint (56 points), and capitalized on miscues, turning the Kings’ 23 turnovers into 34 points.
“We didn’t come out with the same energy [Monday] as we did tonight,’’ said Marquis Daniels, who scored 12 points off the bench. “We’ve just got to find a way to do it every night regardless of who we’re playing. We’ve just got to come in, get back in transition, and rebound the basketball. We’ve been getting killed on the boards, so that’s something we’ve got to focus on.
“It’s always another notch we can go to. We’ve just got to pick each other up, regardless of if it’s the starters or the second string. We’ve just got to be tuned in and play a full 48-minute game.’’
Rajon Rondo put up a double-double (10 points, 13 assists), Ray Allen threw in 14 points, knocking down four 3-pointers, and Glen Davis went for 12 points and five rebounds. Nate Robinson added 16 points off the bench.
The starters rested the entire fourth quarter, as the Celtics got the lead to as many as 28 points.
“I saw Paul icing early, I saw Ray icing early, Rondo,’’ Daniels said. “That’s always a good thing because we’re going to need those guys down the stretch.’’
Rivers needed to see his players respond to his call for more energy, and they did.
“We just wanted to put pressure on them, making sure that we were the instigators,’’ Davis said. “It means a lot. It helps the team out in so many ways just to do things harder. It helps on the offense and defensive side. It sets a standard. That’s what we need to do.’’