SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Ray Allen scored 22 points, Rajon Rondo had 17 points and 10 assists and the Boston Celtics overcame a slow start to beat the Sacramento Kings 95-90 on Tuesday night.
Paul Pierce added 15 points and Kevin Garnett had 12 to help the Celtics (37-11) pull away in the fourth quarter and clinch the Eastern Conference's best record through games of Feb. 6. That means Boston's Doc Rivers will coach the East in the All-Star game in Los Angeles on Feb. 20.
DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans finished with 20 points apiece for a Kings team that returned to its losing form. They were coming off wins against two of the Western Conference's elite — the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Hornets — but missed out on their first three-game winning streak this season.
The Kings knocked Boston around for most of the first half until the Celtics finally pushed back.
Maybe even a little too hard.
A physical game spilled over after Garnett dived for a loose ball near the Kings bench late in the second quarter. Cousins stood over the Celtics big man — still wearing a bandage on his head from a gash that opened in the previous game against the Lakers — with the ball already out of bounds. Rondo came to his teammate's aid, exchanged words with Cousins and pushed the Kings forward in the chest.
Things never escalated past that, although Rondo was called for a technical foul that could draw more attention in the NBA league office. The Kings led 54-45 at the end of a first half in which they dominated the Celtics in almost every phase.
The Eastern Conference champions were just too much to handle.
The Celtics withstood all the blows and clamped down defensively in the fourth quarter. Glen Davis' fastbreak dunk highlighted the run that put Boston ahead 87-77 with 6 minutes remaining, and the Kings never seriously challenged after that.
If only that was the end of Boston's otherwise successful West Coast trip.
The Celtics were planning to stay in Sacramento for an extra night — barring a last-minute change — because of a winter storm cutting a frigid path through much of the nation. They play again until Friday at home against the Dallas Mavericks.
NOTES: Rivers met with friend and Cinncinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker, who lives in northern California, before the game outside Boston's locker room. Baker's son was wearing a green Reds baseball cap. ... Kings reserve F Darnell Jackson took a few minutes to leave the court after the first half. He did not return. The team said Jackson had shortness of breath and kept him out for precautionary reasons. ... Kings F Jason Thompson sat out the game with a sprained right ankle.