The Celtics withstood a powerful performance by Kings sharpshooter Buddy Hield and held on for 103-102 win Monday night, avenging the 1-point loss they were handed in Sacramento last week.
Hield, who hit 11 3-pointers and scored a career-high 41 points, hit a 3-pointer with 1:43 left that pulled the Kings within 97-96, igniting a streak of six consecutive made shots by both teams.
Sacramento’s were all 3-pointers, though, and Bogdan Bogdanovic’s from the top of the key briefly gave the Kings a 102-101 lead with 38.9 seconds left. At the other end, Marcus Smart hit a tough runner off the glass, and then after a timeout he came up with a steal. He streaked toward the basket and his shot was blocked by Hield, but the Celtics maintained possession with 24 seconds left.
After a pair of timeouts, Jayson Tatum’s long jumper was an airball, giving Sacramento the ball with 5.7 seconds to play. But the Kings could not get the ball in Hield’s hands, and Bogdanovic’s jumper clanged off the back of the rim.
Last week, the Celtics lost in Sacramento when Smart’s potential game-winner rolled around the rim and off.
Jaylen Brown had 24 points. The Celtics were without point guard Kemba Walker, who missed the game after entering the league’s concussion protocol, as well as center Daniel Theis (illness).
Observations from the game:
■ Brad Stevens must have gulped when he saw Hield start the game by making his first 3-pointer. Hield pummeled the Celtics last week, and he started doing the same Monday. Hield erupted for 21 third-quarter points. He has two 30-plus point games this season, and both came against Boston.
■ The Celtics had one unforgivable lapse defending him. After Robert Williams swatted a shot out of bounds with 1.3 seconds left on the shot clock, Hield somehow caught a pass for a wide open 3-pointer from the left arc, which he buried during his powerful third quarter.
■ It was immensely obvious the Celtics were lacking playmaking at the start. Several possessions ended with uncertain attempts with the shot-clock running down, including one contested mid-range fadeaway by Grant Williams.
■ Point guard Tremont Waters, who was recalled from the Red Claws because of Walker’s injury, received a nice ovation when he checked in with 9:05 left in the second quarter and the Celtics trailing, 30-23.
Stevens in recent days has expressed extreme confidence in Waters, who on Monday was named the G League’s player of the week. And Waters showed why. Although his first shot was an airball and his second thudded off the rim, he quickly showed his value as a playmaker, dicing through the lane and mixing in momentum and misdirection to zip pinpoint passes to his teammates. The Celtics outscored the Kings, 30-16, during Waters’s nine first-half minutes. He finished with 7 points and 3 assists.
■ Smart’s 3-pointer with 2:52 left in the second quarter wiped away an 11-point deficit and tied the score at 42, but the more impressive play occurred just moments earlier. Brown had the ball in the post and the shot-clock was running down when he fired a pass to Smart at the right arc. Smart was aware of the time, and quickly fired the ball at the rim after catching it, allowing Enes Kanter to grab the offensive rebound, which led to Smart’s made 3-pointer.
■ After falling behind, 39-28, the Celtics closed the first half with a 25-7 run.
■ During that flurry, even the wrong plays were going right. As Brown broke free on a fast break, his errant alley-oop pass intended for Tatum thudded off the backboard. But Robert Williams flew in and scooped it up for a dunk anyway.
■ There was an unusual challenge dispute with 9:25 left in the third quarter. Kanter was called for a foul against Harrison Barnes, and Celtics coach Brad Stevens challenged the call. It was decided that the foul was committed by Brad Wanamaker instead of Kanter, which wasn’t a great result for Boston, considering it was Wanamaker’s fourth foul and Kanter didn’t have any. Stevens did keep his timeout, however.
■ Brown had no issue going to his right for layups against Bogdanovic.
■ Props to the Celtics’ game operations crew. For years, they’ve put local celebrities up on the video board without identifying them. It’s usually clear that plenty of fans aren’t quite sure who they’re looking at. On Monday, for the first time I’ve seen in my five years here, they put Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore’s name on the board when he was shown on the screen.
■ Hield’s missed 3-pointer with 8:13 left in the first quarter ended up stuck behind the backboard. Smart snapped into action and grabbed a mop to jar it loose, and then made a raise-the-roof gesture as he received a round of applause. That’s about as exciting as the first quarter got for anyone.
■ The Celtics were playing for the first time since returning home from a five-game Western Conference trip, generally a recipe for sleepy play. But it should be noted that the Kings played in Washington Sunday night while the Celtics had two days off.