Wednesday night’s showing is the kind that could catapult the Kings toward success.
Confidence has to come with ending the Boston Celtics’ seven-game winning streak amid injuries and a suspension that left the roster depleted.
But these are the Kings, who after knocking off the Celtics 108-92 at Golden 1 Center, know to take things one game at a time.
“We’ll see next game, you know what I mean?” forward Matt Barnes said. “We had a great game against the Warriors and then came out flat the next night. That’s one thing that I preached after the game, let’s keep taking steps forward. We may not win all the games but we want to continue to improve as a team. We’re too far into the season to take steps back.”
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The Kings are already without Rudy Gay, Garrett Temple and Omri Casspi due to injuries. DeMarcus Cousins was suspended after being called for his 16th technical foul of the season in Monday’s loss to Chicago.
On Wednesday, Ty Lawson left the game in the second quarter with a strained left hamstring. He’ll have an MRI on Thursday morning but said he did not believe the injury was serious.
That left the Kings relying primarily on seven players most of the game – and it worked.
Five players scored in double figures, six players had at least three assists and, after a rough start, the Kings ran by the Celtics, outscoring Boston 89-64 after the first quarter.
It’s the kind of performance that could be expected by the Kings, who have been unexpectedly good against some of the NBA’s better teams while struggling with squads closer to them in the standings.
“You just never know,” Barnes said. “To get Cuz suspended, Rudy’s hurt, Garrett’s hurt, and to lose Ty and to beat arguably one of the best teams in the East, it’s just a next-man-up mentality.”
Offensively, the next man up was Darren Collison, who matched his season high with 26 points.
Kings coach Dave Joerger said Collison starting at shooting guard with Lawson running the point helped Collison feel fresh as the game went on.
Joerger said, “It frees his mind up to be off the ball a little bit” and Collison responded with one of his better games this season.
Collison shot 12 of 21 and had five assists, four steals and just two turnovers.
“I thought Darren made some shots for us that he really had to create his own his shot and bail us out at the end offense and tonight they went in and that’s fantastic,” Joerger said.
The Kings’ bench was key, too. Ben McLemore had 17 points while Barnes and Willie Cauley-Stein each scored 14.
Barnes also had 11 rebounds, which tied Kosta Koufos for the game high to help the Kings overcome not having Cousins.
The Kings shot 50 percent and held Boston to 39.7 percent shooting.
“Today I thought we played with a purpose,” Collison said. “The ball was moving, we played with so much pace today. We were getting up and down, it was good to see our bench react to Willie’s dunk. So guys area having fun right now. If we continue to play like that we should be all right.”
Cauley-Stein’s highlight-reel dunk on a lob from Collison capped a 16-1 run in the fourth quarter that put the Kings up 96-79.
Boston was led by former Kings guard Isaiah Thomas, who had 26 points and a game-high seven assists.
Thomas said the loss was probably “our worst loss this season.”
“You have to tip your hat to them – they played a hell of a game,” Thomas said. “They punked us in every way after midway through the second quarter on to the end of the game.”