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Apr 5, 2024 4:18 am

Kings, after collapse at New York, aim to rebound vs. Celts

Sacramento Kings

In their first game since clinching the NBA’s best record, the Boston Celtics continue a three-game homestand against Western Conference foes when the Sacramento Kings pay a visit on Friday night.

The Celtics (60-16) have responded to their second pair of back-to-back losses since October with a three-game win streak, including the 135-100 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday that brought them to the 60-win mark for the first time since 2008-09 and the 14th time in franchise history.

“I think it’s important to have the gratitude for (earning the No. 1 overall playoff seed),” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “It’s very hard to do. We may never be in this position again, so you don’t want to take it for granted.”

Boston has not entered the postseason as the No. 1 team in the NBA since 2007-08. Its 13-game lead over the second-place Milwaukee Bucks would be the largest season-ending lead in the NBA since 1980.

Kristaps Porzingis, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown all eclipsed 20 points en route to the Celtics’ ninth win with at least a 30-point margin this season.

Porzingis led the way with 27 points and 12 rebounds.

“We have to find for each of these games, as we’re heading toward the end of the season, some sort of motivation,” Porzingis said. “And (Wednesday) was a night where it was like, if we win this game, we could achieve something.

“Joe just kind of poked us a little bit and got us going for the game, knowing that we could clinch it, and we went out there and took care of business.”

Now, though, the celebration is over.

“Time to get back to work,” Mazzulla said.

The Kings (44-32) had a hot start and a cold finish on Thursday in the front end of a back-to-back on the road, leading by 21 points before dropping a 120-109 decision to the New York Knicks.

Sacramento remains just one game behind sixth place in the Western Conference — the last spot that avoids the play-in round — after missing a chance to tie New Orleans and Phoenix with a win at New York.

However, recent injuries have made the Kings’ road more challenging. Kevin Huerter (dislocated left shoulder) and Malik Monk (sprained right knee) are both out, with the former requiring season-ending surgery.

Monk was injured last week, and ESPN reported during the Thursday broadcast that his knee is doing “better than expected” and his timeline could shrink from the initial four to six weeks.

Monk ranks second among NBA bench players this season in both scoring average (15.4 points per game) and assists (5.1 per game).

“He did a lot for us. And he could easily start for a lot of teams,” Kings coach Mike Brown said earlier this week. “He’s on the floor a lot of times down the stretch of games, so to think that one person is going to come in and replace him, it’s not possible.”

Against the Knicks, Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox amassed 29 points, six 3-pointers, seven rebounds and seven assists.

Domantas Sabonis logged 17 points and 11 boards, giving him double-doubles in 59 consecutive games.

“Domas has so many damn records I can’t figure it out,” Brown said after Sabonis continued the longest double-double streak since the ABA-NBA merger in 1976.

–Field Level Media

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