BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics were down big early as shots continued to clank off the rim.
Meanwhile, the Sacramento Kings were getting what they wanted offensively, with ease.
It was that kind of night for the Celtics for most of the first half and early portions of the third quarter against the Kings on Thursday night.
But instead of continuing to fight uphill to no avail, the Celtics showed the kind of grit and determination to get back in the game and eventually take control, the kind of play we saw from them during their West coast trip which gave hope that maybe they packed that same brand of basketball in their carry-ons back to Boston.
The Celtics, down by as many as 17 points to the Sacramento Kings at TD Garden, mounted a third-quarter rally that set in motion what ultimately became a 126-120 win.
Boston (42-27) was far from perfect in winning for the fourth time in the last five games. But having to lock in for an extended period of time to get back in the game and eventually take over, bodes well in their quest to go into the postseason playing the kind of basketball needed in order to succeed in the playoffs.
“When we got down (13) in the third, we continued to fight back, continued to play hard,” said Boston’s Marcus Morris, who had his fourth double-double of the season with 21 points and 13 rebounds. “We finished the game off strong. As long as we come out with a win, that’s all that matters.”
☘️ CELTICS 126, KINGS 120
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Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was pleased with the win, obviously.
But he also liked the fact that his team had to battle back to get the win.
“My encouragement comes from just kind of gutting it out and finding a way down 17, staying together,” Stevens said. “Had every excuse to not play well and just . . . that’s more of what we have been fortunate enough to be used to.”
But that familiarity that Stevens speaks of has not been the norm for the Celtics, this season.
Despite having all of the core guys return from a team that played with an elite level of fight and fortitude most nights, this year’s team has been more inconsistent in that regard which is why they are fighting to have a top-4 seed in the playoffs as opposed to running away with the Eastern Conference the way many had expected.
In the third quarter, Boston fell behind by as many as 13 points in the quarter after a driving lay-up by De’Aaron Fox made it an 80-67 game with 7:32 to play which led to a Celtics timeout.
Boston took over from there as the Celtics closed out the third with a 16-2 run capped off by a Gordon Hayward lay-up with 0.2 seconds to play that put the Celtics ahead 93-91 going into the fourth.
The Celtics would lead for the remainder of the game.
There are games in which the final score isn’t quite as close as the actual game that was played.
But make no mistake about it.
The Celtics, which led by as many as 13 points, had to grind this one out; and they’ll be better off in the long run because of playing — and finding a way to win — games like this.
“It feels good; add it to the win list,” Irving said. “You just have to battle through it; stay the course, stay aggressive, stay tough, make sure we’re not putting the game in the ref’s hands … we just have to go and take it and tonight we did.”
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