Stellar Performance from Second Unit Helps Propel Celtics Past Kings

Apr 5, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) shoots the ball vs. the Sacramento Kings.
Apr 5, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) shoots the ball vs. the Sacramento Kings. / Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

With Jaylen Brown (left-hand sprain) and Derrick White (lower back contusion) inactive, the Boston Celtics went to a starting five featuring Jrue Holiday and Jayson Tatum in the backcourt with Sam Hauser, Al Horford, and Kristaps Porzingis up front.

Tatum took on the assignment of guarding De'Aaron Fox. And with the Sacramento Kings letting others initiate the offense, turnovers courtesy of careless passes followed. There was also Kristaps Porzingis blocking Domantas Sabonis despite barely leaving his feet.

The Celtics held their guests to 15 points on 23.8 percent shooting in the first frame, including 2/13 (15.4 percent) from beyond the arc. Fox had one point, missed all four of his field goal attempts, and committed a turnover.

Consistently getting stops on one end allowed Boston to maintain an up-tempo pace that repeatedly led to quality looks. The hosts converted on 10/20 shots and produced ten points in the paint.

That included Luke Kornet setting a rock-solid screen, paving a path for Tatum to attack downhill for a two-handed flush.

That helped the C's take a 27-15 advantage into the second quarter. Porzingis registered seven points and five rebounds in the opening 12 minutes. Tatum scored six and dished out two assists. 

The second unit not only provided an infusion of energy, but they also chipped in 13 points.

With the Celtics having already secured home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, Friday represented another chance for Joe Mazzulla to experiment.

He deployed a unit consisting of Payton Pritchard, Svi Mykhailiuk, Tatum, Xavier Tillman Sr., and Luke Kornet. It's the first time those five have shared the court this season.

The results were positive as they helped the hosts stage a 30-9 run, suffocating Sacramento's offense on one end and producing points in the paint, like when Pritchard drove baseline before finding Tillman for a layup and playing inside-out basketball to create in-rhythm threes at the other.

But after their lead grew as large as 16, Boston eased off the gas, allowing the Kings to counter. They finished the second period with 27 points, including 12 in the paint, pulling within four and entering halftime down 54-50.

The Celtics did a great job of playing inside-out in the third quarter, which led to assisting on seven of 12 makes.

That included getting the ball to Tatum in the mid-post, the five-time All-Star drawing two defenders, then kicking the ball out to Porzingis, who swung it to Jrue Holiday. The former UCLA Bruin quickly moved it to Sam Hauser, who showcased his improvement making plays off the dribble, putting the ball on the deck before delivering a bounce pass to Al Horford for a layup.

There was also an instance where getting the ball to Porzingis in the low post on the left side of the floor ended with a Pritchard three from the right corner.

Boston also got multiple finishes at the rim thanks to spacing the floor and catching the Kings sleeping on pick-and-rolls. Plus, Porzingis slipping to the basket before Sabonis could rotate quickly enough to prevent an emphatic dunk.

However, the hosts had trouble keeping their guests off the glass, surrendering six offensive rebounds and 12 second-chance points. The visitors scored 22 points in the period, entering the fourth quarter trailing 84-72.

That nearly proved costly, as Sacramento, fighting for postseason positioning, rallied to take the lead when Fox banked in a three to put the Kings on top 100-99 with 27 seconds left.

But Tillman countered with a floater from the middle of the paint. Boston then got multiple stops from around the basket on the visitors' final possession, securing a 101-100 victory.

The hosts' second unit finished with 43 points in the win, helping overcome 40 points from Fox and the Kings' parlaying 13 offensive rebounds into 20 points.

The Celtics are now on to a Sunday matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers. That game will tip off at 6:00 EST at TD Garden.

Further Reading

Celtics' Assistant Likely Candidate for Hornets' Head-Coaching Vacancy

Jaylen Brown Shares What's Fueling Career Year: 'Nothing in This World Gonna Break My Spirit'

Jaylen Brown's Evolution Crucial to Celtics' Desire to Win with More Than Talent

Celtics Embracing Challenge to Go Beyond Most Talented

Jayson Tatum Opens Up About Sacrificing in Celtics' Title Pursuit: 'It's a Process'

Brad Stevens Discusses Celtics' Plan for Final Roster Spot

Marcus Smart Shares How Boston Shaped Him, His Message to Celtics Fans

Celtics Maturation Molded by Experience: 'It Builds, Like, an Armor'

Jaylen Brown Quieting Doubters, Validating What He Always Believed: 'Earn Everybody's Trust'

Joe Mazzulla Discusses Identity, Evolution of Celtics' Offense: 'Balance of Pace and Execution'


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Bobby Krivitsky

BOBBY KRIVITSKY

Bobby Krivitsky's experiences include covering the NBA as a credentialed reporter for Basketball Insiders. He's also a national sports talk host for SportsMap Radio, a network airing on 96 radio stations throughout the country. Additionally, he was a major-market host, update anchor, and producer for IMG Audio, and he worked for Bleacher Report as an NFL and NBA columnist.