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Kings 100, Celtics 99: We’re the Best Team in the East, Baby!!!

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The Sacramento Kings have played inspired basketball since De’Aaron Fox went down. They got a win today. Read about it here, right now.

Kimani Okearah

The Sacramento Kings hosted a hard-fought battle against the Boston Celtics, ultimately pulling out a 100-99 victory on an incredible last second miss by Boston. Let’s get into the quarter by quarter breakdown.

First Quarter:

To start this quarter, it was Nemanja Bjelica who made his presence known, taking advantage of the injuries to the Celtics big men. There was a sequence in the first where Bjeli had a funky floater in the lane drop in, then came down and blocked Celtics center, Theis and then went down the floor and found a nice little wrap around pass to assist Richaun Holmes with a nice dunk. A Few minutes later, Nemanja had a sweet up and under following that with an airball. He’s not perfect.

Halfway through the first and the Kings played pretty even basketball with the best team in the East with Sacramento up 14-12 and neither team looking like they were significantly better or worse than the other. Records couldn’t be more opposite but six minutes in their play FELT even. A big factor in this is the the Celtics missing any big willing to play defense. Daniel Theis is a big block of man, but couldn’t step out and guard Nemanja. Enes Kanter had no interest at all in playing defense. Robert Williams would have changed this first quarter for the Kings but alas, Time Lord didn’t play with some ankle soreness.

The Kings defense was something resembling good in the first quarter, blocking the Celtics guards on back to back possessions, following that up with Dwayne Comingaliveman hitting a three. With 3 minutes left, Bjelica hit another three to put the Kings up 7 at 24-17, causing Pete Buttegieg to call a timeout. By this point, the Kings defense felt like they were swarming the Celts. This is the second game in a row that I’ve really taken to noticing that this defense was... defending.

More good news out of the time out was a graphic that the NBC Sports team put out. Since the turn of the page on the calendar, the Kings were 2nd in the NBA in 3 point attempts and 3 point makes at 41.1%. Pretty, pretty good. The Kings got up to an 13 point lead, going on a 12-0 run to get there and forcing the Celtics, who average less than 12 turnovers a game, into 6 in the first quarter.

After one quarter, the score was 30-12, Sacramento’s lead.

Second:

The Kings tossed Harry Giles out there 45 seconds into quarter numbero dos and the man again got himself a nice little ovation. Kings fans love this kid in a way that’s just different from regular fandom. I love it. This quarter started a little chippy and stayed chippy throughout. They traded free throws for the first few minutes with the only really notable play being a beefy tip from Bjelica off a Giles miss over Tatum and Semi Ojeleye. Time and time again the Kings struggled to get into their offense, relying on Bogi to play some iso-ball against Jason Tatum a couple of posessions in a row. Seeing this taking a predictable turn, a time out was called with 8:30 left.

Sacramento came out to a nice Bogi dime to Harry Giles, who then follwed the offense with some defense, blocking Enes on the other end (before Kanter tips the follow up in). Boston then made a run to cut it down to a 4 point game only two minutes later; another time out called by the Kings. This thing was slowly slipping away and a sign of things to come in the third quarter. After 30 points in the first, the Kings scored just 10 through the first 8 minutes of the second. Their saving grace was forcing the Celtics into 11 turnovers with time left in the second. Those extra opportunities mitigated the Kings bench’s offensive struggles. Off the timeout, back to back 3’s by Buddy and Barnes pushed the Kings back to a 10 point lead. After some back and fourth in the waning minutes and an ugly wrestling match at center court that left Bogdan Bogdanovic with a banged up knee, the Kings went into the half up only 4 points.

I’m entirely unsure whether to call this quarter scrappy or sloppy quarter overall, so we’ll just say it was “a good defensive stand” for the Kings.

Stand out guys in the first half for Sacramento: Nemanja Bjelica with 9 points, 6 rebounds and like 25 clutch little moments. Buddy Hield with 16 points, 7-11 shooting and only one drive to the basket that you knew was getting blocked before he even took off.

Third Quarter:

The start of the second half saw Harrison Barnes take Jason Tatum in the post, something that happened a few times this game. Tatum looked like the young 20-something he is, when Barnes decided that was the move to make. Not to celebrate too long, however, as Boston cut the lead to one but struggled to get over the hump early on. They just couldn’t get a ball to go down to take the lead. Buddy Hield snuck out early off a missed three from the Celts, and was wide open in the corner for a full court pass into a three pointer, but the Celtics responded out of a time out with an and-one layup for Daniel “Not-Tibor-Pleiss” Theis. Boston would take the lead the next possession on a breakaway layup after smacking Richaun Holmes in his dreamy eyes and the Kings would struggle to wrestle the lead back the rest of the way.

You could feel the momentum starting to turn after Buddy Hield got a three point attempt blocked but he then immediately snatched the breakout pass right back and after some nice ball movement, the Kings hit a three to take back the lead at 60-59 right at the half way mark of the third. Sacramento would call a timeout after a dunk from Theis that put the Celts up 3 and then post-break saw them tossing Bogi into the game to help take back the reins.

[Sidenote here: I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many missed layups in a game. Again, it could be contributed to good defense or sloppy offense but both sides had layups smacking off the backboard, blocked or just heaved with reckless abandon.]

Buddy hit back to back threes to make it 66-65, Kemba Walker came back a possession later to draw a foul behind the arc on Bogi and hit all three to take a two point lead back. Then, the ensuing possession saw Buddy hit a three off a Giles screen but Giles leaned a little too much and an offensive foul was called (correctly I might add). From there, Bogi got a steal and Buddy hit a three off the fast break, only to see Semi Ojeleye hit a three immediately after to have the lead taken right back.

This was the third quarter in a nutshell. The Kings were sloppy and the Celtics tightened the noose on them. Celtics outscored the Kings 29-21 in the quarter and took a 75-71 lead into the final quarter.

Fourth Quarter:

The 4th started with Giles getting blocked, missing a layup and Bjelica cleaning up the board with a layup and then Bogi threading the needle to Giles to tie the game up at 75. A few positions later, it was Giles returned the clean up favor off of a Bjeli missed layup. MISSED LAYUPS ALL DAY LONG.

From here, the game tightened up even further. Baskets got traded, fouls got called on both sides, dogs had to out to the restroom but with six minutes to play the the Kings had the game tied up at 85 after a Richaun Holmes clean-up of a Bogi ... missed layup. Sloppy play found Buddy his 6th three of the game to put the Kings up one just a minute later. Jason Tatum drew an and-one on the following possession. Back and forth, back and forth.

After some wide open threes got clanked by the Kings, Jason Tatum scored again, hitting a three to put the Celtics up five with 3:45 to go. A big moment in the game came moments later when Bogdanovic hit a three at the exact same time as Jaylen Brown fouled off-ball and after an official review, the refs reward the Celts by waiving off the basket. Bogi hit a three out of a timeout only to see the exact same scenario happen on the Celtics offensive possession: Jason Tatum got himself a dunk at the same moment as Theis got tackled by Richaun Holmes. No bucket for Tatum and the refs back in New York get to file for some overtime after having to review two plays back to back. Theis hits both, Holmes now had himself 5 fouls, Boston up 4 with 2:45 to play. From here on out I’m giving some play by play:

Bogi hits a fall away on the baseline to put the Kings down two.

Big rebound by Richaun off of a Tatum miss.

Buddy drains a three on Marcus Smart to put the Kings up 1 with 2 minutes to play.

Jaylen Brown misses a shot with 91 seconds left, but Boston gets the ball back after an official review.

Tatum hits a Kobe fall away in the middle of the key.

Buddy was locked up by Marcus Smart but found his way to the right side of the floor and hit a two near the baseline with a minute left.

Theis then follows up with a dunk. 50 seconds. Celts up one.

In what felt like a doomed, cursed totally Kings thing to do: Buddy gets double teamed on near the left sideline and then non-challantly throws the ball into the crowd down 1 with 36 seconds left. Existence is pain.

Jaylen Brown runs the lane for a big tip to a teammate off of a Cardiac Kemba miss, to Marcus Smart who gets blocked by Richaun off the backboard. Richaun straight rips the ball out of Smart’s hands and as they tumble to the ground, Smart is called for a foul: putting Richaun on the line, down 1 point with 13.3 left in the game.

Richaun (with 7 and 12 rebounds this game) makes the first to tie the game at 99-99 and then downs the second, giving the Kings a 100-99 lead. Lawler’s Law rules our universe.

In the final play of the game, the Celtics play it deciding against calling a timeout. Kemba drives baseline but is forced to give it up to Marcus Smart up at on the right three. Smart blazes by the Kings defensive rotation, runs the center lane and tosses up a mostly uncontested floater up off the board that gets a beautiful bounce off the rim, to the glass, to the rim again where the ball hangs... and hangs and hangs before FINALLY falling out after the buzzer sounds!

Kings beat the Boston Celtics!!!!

Final score: 100-99!!!

Quick Final Takeaways

The Ball Movement: There were points in this game where the passing was beautiful. Like a legit offensive system that was generating wide open three pointers. There was even points where the Kings found themselves so open that they passed up a shot multiple times on the same possession. Other times however, the Kings offense stagnated and relied on iso ball from Bogi and Buddy to ... middling effect. I can be convinced something is brewing and that something looks tasty.

Bogi’s Assist Game: Bogdan is doing the damn thing. That guy is a passing fiend with De’Aaron Fox out. Tonight he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with a shotgun, shooting 5-14 from the field, but his passing made him an impact player. Bogi had himself 10 assists, drawing the defense in and finding guys open all over the paint.

Bjelica Double Double: this game is absolutely a loss had Bjelica not come to play with with his big boy pants on. 12 points, 14 rebounds for the big man, his work in the first half was the reason the Kings had a lead to giveaway later on in the game!