SACRAMENTO, Calif. — In a season when wins have been rare, the Sacramento Kings were not about to quibble that their latest one was not particularly pretty.
“Defensively, they beat us on the boards,” Kings center DeMarcus Cousins said after a 105-98 win over the Boston Celtics on Saturday night at Sleep Train Arena.
“We had a lot of turnovers. But through it all, we stayed poised, and we were able to pull it out, and that’s the important thing.”
Kings forward Rudy Gay might have shown the most, saving his best for the fourth quarter and capping a 22-point night with a driving layup that put the Celtics away for good after Boston erased a 16-point lead and kept it a nip-and-tuck affair in the final six minutes.
Point guard Isaiah Thomas finished with 17 points and tied a career-best with 12 assists for Sacramento, which won four of its past five at home against Eastern Conference opponents. Cousins, returning after missing the previous game with a strained left hip flexor, scored 13 points and fended off Boston center Kris Humphries down low late for a key layup to aid the Kings.
“We executed our offense and that was the biggest thing,” Thomas said. “Even though we went through a stretch where we weren’t making a lot of shots, we were able to execute, and we’ve lacked that in some games.”
Forward Jeff Green scored a game-high 29 points for the Celtics, who never led in losing their fourth straight. Green missed his first nine shots from the field and wound up making just 7 of 25.
Cousins spent much of the night battling with Boston forwards Kris Humphries, Brandon Bass, Green and Kelly Olynyk, all of whom poked, nudged, muscled and generally harassed Cousins enough to draw his 13th technical foul of the season, which tied Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin for the most in the NBA.
Cousins also failed to block a shot for the first time in 17 games.
“We got the win, so that’s what matters,” said Cousins, who declined to discuss his matchup with Humphries.
Cousins nearly drew a second technical foul when Humphries impeded Cousins’ progress as he ran down the floor in the fourth quarter. Cousins threw an elbow at the Boston center that officials did not see.
“It’s a physical game and we can’t let people get under our skin and get in the way of what we’re trying to do,” Kings coach Michael Malone said.
Thomas said, “Other teams are going to try to rile him up. We might not like it, but that’s the way it is.”
Tempers were at a short fuse on the other side, too. Boston was called for three technical fouls and coach Brad Stevens and guard Gerald Wallace were ejected in the fourth quarter.
“I’ll just avoid talking about it,” Stevens said of his ejection. “That’s probably the best thing.”
Humphries finished with 19 points and Bass added 12 points for the Celtics, but Boston lost its 14th straight against a Western Conference opponent.
After trailing 49-33 in the second quarter, the Celtics briefly tied the score with an 11-0 run midway through the fourth quarter. Olynyk made a 3-pointer for his only bucket on one possession, then hit one of two free throws after a flagrant foul called on Kings forward Carl Landry to make it 85-85 with 6:13 to go.
But after a Cousins free throw, Gay connected on a mid-range jumper from the wing, then drove the hoop and drew a goaltending for a 90-85 lead. Then Gay knocked down two free throws. And with the Celtics within six, Gay’s layup drove home the final nail.
Guard Ben McLemore scored 11 points for the Kings. forwards Jason Thompson, Derrick Williams and Landry all added 10 for Sacramento.
It was the first time since Feb. 27 of last season against the Orlando Magic that the Kings had seven players in double figures.
Kings forward Reggie Evans, acquired with guard Jason Terry from the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, did not play in his Sacramento debut.
NOTES: Kings G Jason Terry, acquired Wednesday from the Brooklyn Nets along with F Reggie Evans, will miss the rest of the season to rehab a left knee that has bothered him all season. Sacramento GM Pete D’Alessandro said the Kings want Terry to return at full strength next season. The 15-year veteran averaged a career-low 4.5 points in 35 games with Brooklyn after having surgery on the knee before the campaign. … Boston C Jared Sullinger missed the game after suffering what the team called a “mild concussion” during Friday’s loss at the Los Angeles Lakers. … The Kings were allowing opponents to shoot 43.4 percent from the field in their first eight games in February, the fourth-best mark in the NBA. They also were fourth in offensive rebounding during the month (12.5). … After losing to the Lakers on Friday night, the Celtics had been outscored by an average of 13.2 points in dropping 11 straight against Western Conference opponents.
Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair
If James Harden needed any extra motivation against the Los Angeles Clippers, he found it in the first half.
Harden scored 34 points, and the Rockets held on for a 100-98 victory over the Clippers in a sometimes testy affair on Sunday at Staples Center.
Point guard Chris Paul, who finished with 23 points, missed a contested shot at the buzzer that would have forced overtime.
“It was very important for us just to go out there and play well,” said Harden, who hit seven of 16 shots from the floor, three of five from 3-point range and 17 of 18 free throws. “The last two games we kind of struggled a little bit, but we got our pop back a little bit today, and it was a good win for us.”
Harden provided much of that pop, particularly in the second quarter after Clippers forward Matt Barnes was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul after pushing Harden to the court at 6:02. Harden scored 15 of his 18 points in the period after that, leading the Rockets to a 58-50 halftime lead.
Did the flagrant foul add more fuel for the Rockets’ All-Star guard and MVP candidate?
“Yeah. Things like that are fun,” said Harden, who had 24 points in the first half. “We have fun, we got boosted off of that.”
The win ended a two-game skid for the Rockets (44-22). Houston forward Trevor Ariza scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while forward Terrence Jones added 16 points and 12 boards.
“This was a win that we needed, especially on the road,” Ariza said. “Going into the home stretch, these are the types of games we have to win.”
Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin returned after missing 15 games due to surgery on his right elbow. Griffin had 11 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but committed five turnovers in 41 minutes.
“I didn’t think I played well,” said Griffin, who managed 4-of-10 shooting. “I was out of rhythm. Way too many turnovers, obviously.”
Barnes scored 19 points and guard J.J. Redick had 15 for the Clippers (42-24), who fell into a tie for the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference standings with the Dallas Mavericks.
Paul lamented a host of turnovers in the defeat, including a critical one involving center DeAndre Jordan.
“I had some bad turnovers,” said Paul, who committed three of the Clippers’ 20 miscues compared to 13 for the Rockets. “On one, I drove it off DeAndre’s foot, the other one I lost towards the end of the half. We have to take better care of the ball. We still had an opportunity to win, but we just didn’t do it.”
The Clippers came back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit. Paul scored seven straight points, capping it with a 3-point basket to tie the score at 96 with 3:05 left in the game. Houston got a 3-pointer by Jones, but Barnes countered with a basket to keep Los Angeles within 99-98 with 1:35 left. Los Angeles, though, never scored again.
Griffin got a steal as Ariza attempted a pass to Harden, but Ariza drew a charging foul as Griffin bolted to the bucket with 12 seconds remaining. Griffin remained unhappy about the call after the game.
“If I speak on that, I’ll get fined,” Griffin said.
Harden hit one of two foul shots with 8.9 seconds left, capping the scoring before Paul failed to connect on a jumper in the lane with Ariza defending.
The Rockets outscored Los Angeles 36-20 in the second quarter despite making just 38.5 percent of their shots compared to 44.4 percent for the Clippers. Overall, the Clippers hit 43.9 percent to 37.2 percent for the Rockets. They also held an edge in 3-point shooting, converting 12 of 26 attempts to seven of 30 for Houston. The Rockets, though were 29 of 36 from the foul line to 14 of 24 for Los Angeles.
Jordan finished with 20 rebounds and four blocks.
NOTES: F Blake Griffin’s return benefits PG Chris Paul as much as any Clipper. “Teams have been able to trap (Paul) far more than they can when Blake is on the floor because of (Griffin’s) ability to pass,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I’m sure CP is the happiest of all to have him back.” … Rivers isn’t sure if injured G Jamal Crawford would return before the playoffs. Crawford has missed six games with a right calf contusion. … Rockets C Dwight Howard sat out his 18th game with a right knee edema. “He’s doing everything he can, he’s trying to get better, but until you’re on the floor, it’s impossible to say,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said regarding Howard’s return. … Both clubs resume play Tuesday. Houston hosts the Orlando Magic, while Los Angeles plays the Charlotte Hornets at Staples Center.
Spurs’ Ginobili sprains ankle
SAN ANTONIO — Guard Manu Ginobili was helped off the floor late in the third quarter of the San Antonio Spurs’ game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday due to a sprained right ankle.
Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points. He was immediately was led to the locker room, and he did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court. He did not return to the game.
In 19 minutes during the Spurs’ 123-97 win over the Timberwolves, Ginobili scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday and leading him to play limited minutes against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.
NBA notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return
Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, out the last 15 games with an elbow injury, was cleared to return Sunday against the Houston Rockets.
Griffin had surgery five weeks ago to remove a staph infection in his right elbow.
“He said, ‘I’m ready,'” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before Sunday’s game. “Yesterday the trainers called me and said, ‘If he can go, he can go. He’s been cleared.'”
Rivers said timing likely will be an adjustment for Griffin.
“Timing is timing,” Rivers said. “You lose it when you don’t play in an NBA game. Sometimes you come back and you play great the first game and then you lose your timing. Sometimes it doesn’t. As far as the way we play, it won’t be hard for him at all.”
In 51 games this season, Griffin is averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists.
–Spurs guard Manu Ginobili had to be helped off the floor late in the third quarter against Minnesota on Sunday. Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points.
He was helped off the floor and immediately was led to the locker room. He did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court.
Up to that point, Ginobili had scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against Toronto and play limited minutes against Cleveland on March 12.
–Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr sent emails to three fans who were disappointed that he rested several prominent players, including All-Star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, in Friday’s loss to the Nuggets in Denver.
“There’s two really good sides to the story,” Kerr said, according to the Associated Press report. “Nobody’s wrong here. … I can’t argue with them.”
Kerr received an email from a family that drove from South Dakota to Denver to see Curry, Thompson and the entertaining Warriors play. But Curry, Thompson, center Andrew Bogut and reserve guard Andre Iguodala did not play so they could be rested, and the Warriors lost 114-103.
“I heard from some fans. I received a few emails, stories about driving in from a long distance off and spending a lot of money on tickets,” Kerr said. “I have great sympathy for those people. I really do. It’s a tricky one. It’s something that I think Adam Silver is trying to address through the scheduling shuffling that he’s talking about.
–The Dallas Mavericks recalled center/forward Dwight Powell from the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League on Sunday.
The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Powell played in one game during his most recent assignment to the D-League and finished with 28 points, five rebounds and two assists to lead the Legends in a 115-89 win over the Austin Spurs on Saturday night.
Powell has appeared in 19 games for the Mavericks this season, averaging 3.5 points and 2.2 rebounds in 10.0 minutes per game.
–The Atlanta Hawks signed forward Austin Daye to a 10-day contract Sunday.
Daye appeared in 26 games (four starts) earlier this season with the San Antonio Spurs, averaging 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.3 minutes.
In 10 games this season with the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League, Daye has averaged 16.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 blocks in 28.5 minutes.
–The Miami Heat recalled guard Zoran Dragic from the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Development League on Sunday.
Zoran appeared in four games (one start) and averaged 16.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.50 steals, helping the Skyforce to a 3-1 record over that span.