BOSTON — Sacramento coach Keith Smart knows what the rest of the NBA knows: The Celtics will miss Rajon Rondo the rest of this season.
“Everyone always says when you lose a star player, you have other guys step up and you have ball movement,” Smart said after his Kings were easily handled, 99-81, by the Rondo-less Celtics on Wednesday night. “But obviously your superstars win the close, tough games, and that’s what you’ll miss with Rondo — the guy that can win a ballgame when the game is tight against a heavy-hitting opponent. That’s what you’ll miss.”
On Sunday, before the Celtics knew they were losing their floor general to a torn right anterior cruciate ligament, they were able to beat the Miami Heat in double overtime.
Wednesday night, after the shock had a few days to set in, Boston easily disposed of the lowly Kings.
Boston hit its first 14 second-quarter shots from the floor and outscored the Kings 37-14 in the period before cruising to the win that brought the Celtics back to within a game of .500.
With Rondo slated to have surgery in the coming weeks, the Celtics will handle the ball by committee. They did it pretty well Wednesday.
“As you move forward you’ll have games where one guy doesn’t dominate the ball. A good point guard dominates the ball,” Smart said. “You have a collection of guys handling the ball right now to make plays. How they transition to the close games without someone that can control the basketball the way Rondo has done all his career (will be the key).”
Boston led by as many as 28 points in raising its record to 22-23. The Kings, getting some energy from reserves, cut the lead to 14 with 5:44 left but got no closer in losing for the fifth time in the last six games.
The two Celtic wins came after a six-game losing streak.
Paul Pierce, doing much of the ballhandling, led six Celtics in double figures, with 16 points. He also grabbed 10 rebounds and tallied four assists. Kevin Garnett had 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
“I got on Paul at the beginning of the game because I thought he was trying to be the facilitator,” said Boston coach Doc Rivers. “And then once he started moving the ball, he was great. Because he’s still our scorer.
“I said, ‘Paul, you’re our scorer, by the way.’ But overall I thought everybody played their role and played great.”
Pierce, who had made 40 of 118 shots (33.9 percent) in the last eight games, hit 5 of 9 in this one; but he was 0 for 2 from 3-point range, where he is 6 for 38 (15.8 percent) in the last nine games.
“I’m very happy with the way we played,” Pierce said. “We defended well, we moved the ball. You look down and you’ve got six or seven guys in double figures. … Not a bad start to our point guard being out.”
Tyreke Evans led the Kings with 19 points and 11 rebounds. DeMarcus Cousins, who came in averaging 17.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, had 13 points and six boards.
“I think we played a pretty good basketball game except for the second quarter,” Smart said.
Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger left the game with 7:52 left in the first quarter with back spasms and didn’t return. Sullinger had back trouble while at Ohio State, which is seen as the reason he fell all the way to the 21st pick in the first round.
“He’ll have these episodes and we’ve got to get him through it,” said Rivers, who said he was told Sullinger experienced some problems a week or two ago. “Hopefully he doesn’t miss games with them, but if he does, he does. And then get it right and come back.”
NOTES: Boston general manager Danny Ainge said he will watch and evaluate his team in the coming weeks before deciding whether to make a move to replace Rondo before the Feb. 21 trade deadline. . . . Former Celtic Keyon Dooling, who retired after last season, has changed his mind about making a return. Another name that has been mentioned is two-time Celtic Delonte West. . . . In a strange NBA move, Smart played his five starters as a unit through the entire first quarter, when the Kings rallied from nine down early to a two-point lead at the end of one. . . . Sacramento swing man John Salmons, averaging 9.2 points per game, missed Wednesday’s game with stomach flu. . . . Sullinger on not being picked for the All-Star Rising Stars Challenge: “I really don’t care. That’s pretty much it. I really don’t care. It doesn’t make me or break me.” . . . The Kings played the third game of a six-game road trip that continues at Philadelphia on Friday night, while the Celtics hosted Game 2 of a four-game homestand. Orlando arrives Friday and the Clippers come for a Super Bowl Sunday matinee. . . . Rivers on Rondo: “I’ve had the injury. It’s hard. There (are) days you want to be with the guys and days you don’t.” . . . The Celtics recalled rookie center Fab Melo from the Development League, but just for treatment of a quad injury. . . . This might have been the Kings’ last visit before the team goes through with a potential move to Seattle. . . . New Jersey’s Brook Lopez was named to replace Rondo on the East All-Star squad.
Pacers 98, Pistons 79: All it took was a return trip home for the Indiana Pacers to get back on track.
The Pacers ended their three-game losing with a comfortable 98-79 victory over the Detroit Pistons at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Wednesday. The Pacers have won 12 straight games at home.
Wednesday marked the ninth time this season that the Pacers held an opponent under 80 points. Detroit shot 36 percent from the field.
The Pacers caught Detroit at the right time. The struggling Pistons were shorthanded after they took part in a three-team trade earlier in the day. The Pistons sent Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye to the Memphis Grizzlies. The Pistons acquired point guard Jose Calderon from the Toronto Raptors.
The Pacers didn’t show the Pistons any sympathy for being short bodies, either. They led by as many as 23 points. Center Roy Hibbert led the Pacers with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Shooting guard Lance Stephenson recorded his first double-double when he had 12 points, 11 rebounds and five assists before leaving late in the fourth quarter with a slightly sprained left ankle. Center Greg Monroe scored 18 points and pulled down nine rebounds for the Pistons, who have dropped two straight games.
The Pacers broke the game open in the second quarter when they closed the first half on an 18-2 run to take a 54-36 lead into the locker room.
They never looked back after that.
The Pistons never got any closer than 14 points the rest of the game and Pacers coach Frank Vogel was able to empty his bench late in the fourth quarter so that his starters could rest up for Friday’s nationally televised game against the Miami Heat.
NOTES: The Pacers are still holding out hope that injured small forward Danny Granger (knee) will return to the lineup before the All-Star break. But they’re also open to having him sit out until after the break if he’s not 100-percent healthy. The Pacers want to make sure they have their leading scorer the past five years fully healthy for the stretch run of the season when they’re jockeying for playoff seeding. Granger has been cleared for everything but contact drills in practice … Small forward Sam Young, whom the Pacers re-signed earlier this week, was inactive as he continues to work his way back from a sprained ankle, which was the reason why Indiana released him earlier this month … Rodney Stuckey started in Prince’s place for the Pistons … Wednesday was the start of a stretch where the Pacers play 11 of 13 games at home … The NBA acknowledged that it made a mistake in the final seconds of the Pacers’ one-point loss to the Denver Nuggets on Monday. The officials failed to call a foul on Nuggets shooting guard Andre Iguodala when Paul George attempted to drive by him for the game-winning basket.