How do you replace an All Star?
For the Boston Celtics – for at least one night – it’s called the “No Star” approach.
Paul Pierce led a balanced scoring attack that saw six Celtics score in double figures as Boston dominated the visiting Sacramento Kings 99-81 in their second game without injured All Star point guard Rajon Rondo.
Rondo tore the ACL in his right knee and will be out the remainder of the season.
Pierce poured in 16 points on 5 of 9 shooting and hit on six of 7 free throws while dragging down 10 rebounds. The Captain had been struggling with his shooting touch in recent weeks, be seems to have found the range once again, turning in a second consecutive solid performance.
Kevin Garnett turned in another KG-of-old effort with 13 and 9 while Avery Bradley chipped in 11 points plus his usual smothering defense, and Courtney Lee just missed double figures with 9 points. The bench came up huge once again as both Jason Terry and Jeff Green threw down a dozen each.
Brandon Bass, who also chipped in 12 off the bench, replaced starter Jared Sullinger with just 4 minutes gone in the game as the rookie power forward experienced back spasms and motioned towards the Celtics’ bench after coming down awkwardly.
For the Kings, Tyreke Evans scored 19 and pulled down 11 boards, both game highs. Free spirit DeMarcus Cousins logged 13 and six for Sacramento, who saw their record fall to 17-30.
The Kings led after one by a count of 24-22, then got buried in the second quarter.
Led by a brief but intense scoring barrage by Jeff Green, the Celtics dominated the quarter, outscoring the Kings by 23 – the Skywalker began the scoring by sliding inside to muscle in a pair of buckets then hit a 21 footer to give the Celtics the lead for good at 28-26. Pierce scored five down the stretch then Lee nailed one from the parking lot to give the Celtics a 59-38 advantage at halftime.
Boston led by as many as 28 points in the second half and cruised to the second straight win after losing six in a row. The Celtics now sit at 22-23 and have the good fortune of playing five of their next seven games at home, starting with the Orlando Magic on Friday night before welcoming the Los Angeles Clippers to TD Garden for a Sunday matinee.
Things get no easier for the Kings (do things ever come easy for Sacramento?) as they continue a brutal stretch that will see them playing 13 of 16 on the road, with all but two opponents playing .500 or better ball.
Currently, the Kings are in the middle of a six game roadie that takes them next to Philadelphia for a Friday night gig with the Sixers, then turn around to play at MSG the following night against the Knicks before flying to Utah for a home-and-home series with the Jazz.
Doc Rivers was very successful in balancing minutes, with no player other than Brandon Bass logging more than 30. Bass seemed to relish the opportunity to come off the bench and be aggressive, but that continuing that role depends on Sullinger’s gimpy back.
Despite not having a legit ball handler on the floor, the Celtics managed to spread the ball around just fine, notching 22 helpers on the night, led by Garnett with 5. Turnovers were a concern once again, but Sacramento trumped Boston’s 18 with 19 of their own…and that’s the kind of thing that makes the Kings the Kings…
So the “No Star” strategy is off to a strong start. It calls for balance in scoring and in minutes to keep Boston’s now Big 2 fresh – and also features smothering team defense. Doc calls it basketball by committee, but whatever its called it’s working…
…for how long? That remains to be seen. The Celtics have been streaky all season but maybe they’ll keep playing team ball like this from here on out because they know that to win without their All Star point guard, it’s going to take that team effort. So far, so good.