Celtics-Kings Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 15, 2012
Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics had been playing well even with the distraction of the trade deadline looming. Now that it's come and gone with his team still intact, Garnett will try to lead the Celtics to another win over the struggling Sacramento Kings on Friday night. After scoring 21 points in a victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, Garnett had a team-leading 24 in a 105-103 win over Golden State on Wednesday, including the tiebreaking jumper with 5.1 seconds left. Brandon Bass added a season-high 22 points as the Celtics improved to 2-1 on their eight-game road trip, which ends March 23 in Philadelphia. Garnett scored 12 in the fourth quarter while finishing one shy of his season high. He's averaged 17.6 points and 9.4 rebounds while shooting 56.4 percent in 11 games since taking over as the starting center for the injured Jermaine O'Neal. "He's been unbelievable this run," coach Doc Rivers told the league's official website. "Since he's been at the 5, he's been absolutely sensational for us." Rivers' team overcame 18 turnovers and a 52.6-percent shooting performance from the Warriors on Wednesday to win for the eighth time in 10 games. "It's good for the team. It's good for our confidence," forward Paul Pierce said. "It shows we can win when we don't play well. We played defense when it mattered. That's what was most important." Boston (23-19) will get to build on that effort with its top players still on the team after the team stayed quiet at Thursday's trade deadline. Point guard Rajon Rondo was one of those who was in trade rumors, most notably with the Los Angeles Lakers. Rondo has averaged 11.3 assists over his past 10 games and has totaled 41 in the last three meetings with Sacramento, loser of three in a row after a 2-0 start to its nine-game homestand. Boston has prevailed in eight consecutive matchups with the Kings, winning by an average of 17.0 points, but the past two in Sacramento were decided by a combined eight. The Kings (14-29), though, were beaten by a combined 38 points in their last two games. They gave up 40 in the third quarter during a 124-112 loss to Detroit on Wednesday, the most in any period this season. "You're not going to win a game if you give up 40 points," rookie guard Isaiah Thomas said. Three Sacramento players topped 20 points in that defeat, including Jason Thompson with a season-best 21 and 15 rebounds. Thomas also scored 21, three shy of his career high. Tyreke Evans had a team-best 23 points but left in the fourth quarter after injuring his ankle on a hard fall. He's listed as day-to-day. His potential absence could be a big problem for a Sacramento team which has averaged just 84.1 points in the last eight meetings with Boston. The Kings have allowed an average of 115.0 points during their three-game skid after giving up 98 or fewer during wins over New Orleans and Dallas to start their homestand.
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