De’Aaron Fox scores 40 to bring Kings back from big deficits, but Celtics hold on to win

April 6, 2024

BOSTONThe game appeared to be over. The Boston Celtics had an 18-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, and because they clinched the NBA’s best record in their previous game Wednesday, they sat their key players.The Kings took advantage, fighting all the way back to take a one-point lead with 27 seconds to go when De’Aaron Fox nailed a 3-pointer, giving him 40 points on the night.After a Boston bucket, the Kings had three chances after taking a timeout with 7.1 seconds remaining, but they came up short, losing a 101-100 heartbreaker Friday night at TD Garden in Boston. Despite the loss, the Kings clinched a play-in spot in the Western Conference with the Houston Rockets’ loss to the Miami Heat.The Kings throughout the night couldn’t string together long enough runs to threaten the NBA’s best team. And they couldn’t score enough to help out Fox, the only player on the team to score more than 16 points.Fox scored 20 of his 40 in the second quarter and 13 more in the fourth, but the Kings lost on the second night of a back-to-back after falling to the New York Knicks on Thursday. The defeat extended the Kings’ losing streak to the Celtics to six games. They haven’t won at TD Garden since March of 2021.The Kings finished shooting 38.4% from the field, which was their fifth-worst mark of the season as they fell to 44-33. The absences of Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter continued to plague coach Mike Brown’s team.The Kings made it close in the end by going on a 16-1 run late in the fourth quarter while Boston kept its second unit on the floor. Jayon Tatum sat after scoring 17 points in 33 minutes. Kristaps Porzingis went to the bench after posting 20 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes.Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) shoots against Sacramento Kings center Domantas Sabonis (10) during the first half Friday, April 5, 2024, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) shoots against Sacramento Kings center Domantas Sabonis (10) during the first half Friday, April 5, 2024, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. Eric Canha USA TODAY SportsGuard Payton Pritchard led Boston with 21 points while making five 3s. Keegan Murray and Harrison Barnes each scored 10 points for Sacramento.The Kings started off slow, making just 5 of 21 shots in the first quarter. The Celtics had an equally hard time early in the first by making just one of their first nine attempts. But they finished making nine of 11 to open a 12-point lead after the opening period.But then Fox got going. Sacramento’s star point guard scored 20 points in the second quarter to help erase a 16-point deficit going into halftime. Sacramento trailed 54-50 after outscoring Boston 35-27 in the frame. Fox made four of his five from 3-point range and eight of 10 shots overall. No other Kings player had more than Domantas Sabonis’ seven points in the half.Fox finished three points short of his career-high for a quarter when he scored 23 in the fourth quarter against the Phoenix Suns on Dec. 8.It was a back-and-forth third quarter with Boston opening the second half on a 12-2 run, pushing the lead back to 14 points. The Kings would fight back to trim the deficit to five, but Boston finished the quarter on a 9-2 run capped by a Tatum 3, giving him 17 points.Sabonis reached his 60th consecutive double-double in the third quarter with 13 points and 10 rebounds before finishing with 16 points and 16 rebounds. It extended his streak, which is the longest since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976.Sabonis became the fifth player in league history with a streak of 60 or more. He tied Elvin Hayes for the seventh-longest streak in NBA history. It was his 73rd double-double of the season, giving him the most since Moses Malone had 72 in 1982-83.The Celtics were without star forward Jaylen Brown due to a strained left hand and and guard Derrick White with a back contusion. Neither injury is considered serious. The Celtics, who clinched the NBA’s best record with Wednesday’s win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, are managing their stars before the playoffs begin April 20, coach Joe Mazzulla said before the game.Boston came into Friday with a plus-12.0 net rating, which would be the highest in NBA history over a full season. The 1996-97 Chicago Bulls were plus-11.8 with Michael Jordan while the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors were plus-11.4 with Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.“Veteran team, a lot of playoff experience,” Mike Brown said. “Everybody can seem like they can pass, dribble and shoot at a high level. We have what we call hot players. These guys, you look at their hot player list, you might as well put the whole roster up there.”Chris Biderman covered the 49ers from 2013 to 2021 and started with The Sacramento Bee in August 2018. He previously spent time with the Associated Press and USA TODAY Sports Media Group. A Santa Rosa native, he graduated with a degree in journalism from the Ohio State University.