NBA roundup: Celtics hold off spirited Kings to extend winning streak


NBA roundup: Celtics hold off spirited Kings to extend winning streak

The Celtics won again on their route to the playoffs
The Celtics won again on their route to the playoffsAFP
The top-seeded Boston Celtics held off a 40-point display from De'Aaron Fox (26) and a furious fourth-quarter rally to beat the Sacramento Kings 101-100 on Friday.

Boston, already assured of entering the playoffs as the NBA's number one-ranked team, looked to be strolling to a comfortable victory after taking a 19-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.

But what looked like a formality for Boston came within a whisker of an implosion as Sacramento roared back to take a 100-99 lead after a Fox 3-pointer with 27 seconds remaining.

However, Xavier Tillman's floating jump shot restored Boston's lead with seven seconds left and the Celtics held on to secure their 61st win of the season.

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla praised the grit of his team's second unit in closing out the win, saying it augured well for the playoffs.

"I thought, 'This is fun, this is awesome,'" Mazzulla said. "Couldn't have simulated a better environment of stress, pressure, chaos. It's the perfect environment to execute.

"When those guys are in, you hold them to the same standard as everyone else. I think they did a great job making plays."

Payton Pritchard led Boston's scoring with 21 off the bench while Kristaps Porzingis added 20 points with 11 rebounds and two assists.

Despite Sacramento's defeat, the Kings are assured of at least a play-in place after the Houston Rockets were beaten 119-104 at home by the Miami Heat.

In other games on Friday, Milwaukee slipped to a third straight defeat, losing 117-111 at home to the eliminated Toronto Raptors, who had been on a 15-game losing streak.

Milwaukee, missing the injured Giannis Antetokounmpo, started brightly to pull clear by 10 points in the second quarter, before a sustained rally hauled the Raptors back into contention.

Gary Trent Jr. finished with 31 points for Toronto, with R.J. Barrett (26) and Immanuel Quickley (25) lending offensive support.

Damian Lillard topped the Milwaukee scoring with 36 points, including 4-of-12 from three-point range. The Bucks (47-30) remain second in the Eastern Conference.

Rivers' frustration

The defeat was another blow to Bucks coach Doc Rivers as his team gears up for a tilt at the playoffs.

"I'm frustrated, we're all frustrated, and I guess that's a good thing," Rivers said. "But frustration gets you nowhere. We've got to work ourselves through this.

"I've got to figure out what we've got to do to play at a higher pace."

The Bucks next face the New York Knicks, who slumped to a 108-100 loss to the Chicago Bulls in the Windy City on Friday despite a 35-point performance from Jalen Brunson.

Elsewhere, the Golden State Warriors were left still waiting to clinch at least a play-in spot after Klay Thompson's last-gasp attempted buzzer-beater missed in a 108-106 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

The Mavericks, missing Luka Doncic, were fired by 32 points from P.J. Washington while Kyrie Irving added 26.

In other games Friday, the Oklahoma City Thunder were sent spinning to a third straight defeat in a blow to their hopes of finishing on top of the Western Conference, suffering a 126-112 pounding by the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis.

With Oklahoma City effectively double-teaming Tyrese Haliburton, it was left to Pascal Siakam to lead the Pacers scoring with 21 points.

Haliburton finished with a modest tally of eight points with 11 assists.

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle brushed off Haliburton's low points total.

"Tyrese Haliburton is defined by winning, not by scoring," Carlisle said. "He was patient tonight, he was disciplined."

The short-handed Thunder, meanwhile, slipped to 52-25 and are now third in the West behind Minnesota and Denver.

In New Orleans, the already-eliminated San Antonio Spurs fought back from a 15-point second quarter deficit to upset the Pelicans 111-109.

C.J. McCollum led the scoring with a game-high 31 points for the Pels, but New Orleans were pipped after a balanced offensive performance from San Antonio that saw seven players finish in double figures.

French rookie Victor Wembanyama narrowly missed out on a triple double, finishing with 17 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists.


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