As bewildering as the Celtics can be – at their worst their trailed by 17 points in the second quarter – they also need nights like this to sort out their many issues.
The Celtics, this time at home, beat a fleet Sacramento team for the second time in eight days with Thursday night’s 126-120 win.
Kyrie Irving, again driving his team past potential calamity, produced only the second triple-double of his career, and his first since 2014, with his 31-point, 12-assist, 10-rebound performance. It was also the Celtics’ first triple-double this season.
The win pulled them within a game-and-a-half of fourth-place Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference standings.
Irving’s performance, to go along with 22 points and three 3-pointers from Jaylen Brown, and 21 points and 13 rebounds from Marcus Morris, helped the Celtics survive a 34-point, six-trey eruption by the Kings’ Buddy Hield.
The Celtics opened space with a 14-2 run for a 118-105 lead with 2:51 left, and after Hield stopped the burst with a 3-pointer, Horford scored off an Irving feed for a 120-107 Celtics lead with 2:19 left.
A Tatum drive for a 122-111 lead barely created enough room for the win.
The Celtics dug out of another hole – this one a 13-point third quarter deficit – kicked out with a 14-0 run that included three straight Brown 3-pointers, and took a 93-91 on Hayward’s fullcourt, buzzer-beating drive.
Horford opened the fourth with an up-top three, Williams’ steal set up a Hayward baseline drive, and the rookie center then dunked off a Horford feed for a 100-95 lead.
Despite three more points from Hayward off a drive and free throw, the Kings came back with six straight points, triggering a Celtics timeout and cutting the C’s lead to 104-103 with seven minutes left.
Irving finally got in the way with a floater, and Morris followed up a Kings turnover with a ramble to the basket to convert a three-point play for a 109-103 lead. Irving extended the 14-2 ruin with a step-back jumper and a 15-footer, aided bv a pair of De’Aron Fox misses from the line.
One Morris 3-pointer and a Brown slash later, the Celtics led, 118-105, with 2:51 left.
The first half was excruciating, with the Kings taking a 38-25 lead in the first quarter on 70 percent shooting, not long after Brad Stevens had lamented his team’s shoddy transition defense.
So their climb back was hard, though the Celtics could also consider themselves fortunate to only be trailing, 62-56, at the half.
They needed every drop of Irving’s 19-point half – he scored the Celtics’ last five points in the final 1:15 – and had Tatum’s spin for a three-point play with 1:53 left to thank for creating a mini-finishing kick.
Morris, 3-for-10 in the first half while once again attempting to shoot his way out of a slump, hit a 3-pointer as the big shot in a 9-2 opening run for a 65-64 lead – their first since early in the first quarter.
The Kings responded with a 12-0 run on four straight 3-pointers – three of them from Hield. Horford scored, but missed the and-one opportunity, and the Kings ran off four more points, boosting the lead o 80-67 before Smart hit a 3-pointer.
The Celtics, who had trailed by as much as 17 points in the first half, were thus tasked with climbing out of a hole again.
After an 8-2 run that started on a Smart 3-pointer, the Celtics finally pulled close again with a 14-0 run that started on two Irving free throws, continued through an Irving three, and peaked on three straight bombs from Brown – the latter for a 91-89 lead.
Hayward fouled Fox, who hit twice from the line for the tie, but then drove the floor to beat the quarter-ending clock for a 93-91 lead.
Good returns for Celtics in Garden victory against Kings Boston Herald.