Before the Celtics took off for their longest road trip of the season, they stressed a sense of urgency. They knew they weren’t playing up to their standards, and they recognized the importance of correcting their inconsistencies with the playoffs coming soon.
“For us, being able to know that we don’t have any games left in the regular season, that we need to come together, and we need to start acting like this is it for us and every game matters and get into that rhythm,” Marcus Smart said before the trip.
The six-game journey wasn’t perfect. They dropped a game to the Rockets, the worst team in the Western Conference. Bad habits haunted them in a brutal loss to the Jazz. But on Tuesday, they finished the stretch with a much-needed statement. Against one of the hottest teams in the league, the Celtics picked a good time for their best all-around performance since the All-Star break with a dominant 132-109 victory over the Kings.
It was one game – and the Celtics still need to show they can do this consistently – but it was certainly an encouraging sign as they picked up their 50th win of the season and headed home with a strong finish to a 4-2 road trip.
“That looked like the team I recognized,” Jaylen Brown told NBC Sports Boston after the win. “We came out, we played 48 minutes, we didn’t take our foot off the gas. We took care of business. Ended the road trip well. Get back home and take care of business again. …
“Super important. We dropped a couple of games on this trip that we probably shouldn’t have. The Sacramento Kings have been playing good basketball, so we wanted to come in here and make a little bit of a statement.”
Jayson Tatum responded from a rough night in Utah with 36 points, Jaylen Brown had 27 points and Derrick White added 20 points and 11 assists as the Celtics dominated offensively with 32 assists on 53.3% shooting and slowed down the Kings’ electrifying offense, which is on a historic pace this season. The return of Robert Williams – who played 21 minutes off the bench – seemed to rejuvenate the Celtics, too.
The Celtics moved one game ahead of the 76ers for second place in the Eastern Conference as they look to build momentum heading into the final nine games of the regular season.