The former Indiana troublemaker scored 15 points in his first
game since his antics got him benched in mid-December, but he and
the Kings faltered in the fourth quarter on Friday night as the
Celtics beat Sacramento 84-74.
"He was well-rested because he's been off for a month now,"
Celtics center Kendrick Perkins said. "So he got off to a great
start but we knew he wasn't in NBA shape so he wore down in the
The Celtics had a big debut of their own: Wally Szczerbiak
scored 10 points in 24 minutes in his first game since being
acquired from Minnesota in a seven-player deal. Szczerbiak arrived
at the arena just before the game and wasn't expected to play; he
had the wrong color shoes and only put on a uniform, basketball
boss Danny Ainge said, because he didn't have a suit that would
meet the NBA's dress code.
He finished 4-for-7 from the field, including 2-for-3 from
3-point range, and added three rebounds and a pair of assists.
"He hit some big shots. Helped them win," Artest said. "I can
imagine what he was going through. It must have been more intense
for him, because it happened so suddenly."
Artest's exile from Indiana was more drawn out.
The catalyst for one of the worst brawl's in NBA history, the
2004 fight in the Detroit stands, Artest finally wore out his
welcome with the Pacers when he asked to be traded. The Kings were
willing to take a chance on him to save their sinking season, and
sent Peja Stojakovic to the Pacers.
Although Artest provided a spark -- scoring seven of the team's
first 15 points -- Sacramento made just 4-of-18 shots in the fourth
quarter and shot under 31 percent overall in its worst shooting
night of the season.
"He did as well as he could," Kings coach Rick Adelman said.
"He hadn't been working out that much because he didn't expect the
trade. I thought he was winded and tried to get him some shorter
minutes in the second half."
Artest got the kind of welcome he has long gotten on the road,
and is sure to get now when he returns to Indiana with the Kings.
The Boston fans booed the first few times he touched the ball; the
fact that he carried Sacramento early didn't exactly endear him,
But Artest went 1-for-5 from the field in the fourth and the
Kings made just four baskets -- on 18 shots -- in the final quarter.
Sacramento did not make a basket for 7:19 down the stretch as the
Celtics turned a three-point game into a 12-point lead.
Artest was 5-for-14 from the floor overall and 3-for-7 from
3-point range. He had six rebounds, four steals and two assists.
Perkins had 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Raef LaFrentz had 12
and 10 in their first game without having to share time underneath
with Mark Blount, who went to Minnesota with Ricky Davis.
Brad Miller scored 22 to lead the Kings, and Kenny Thomas had 12
points and 12 rebounds. Mike Bibby, who had averaged more than 30
points in the previous seven games, was 2-for-14 from the field and
had just six points.
Artest hit a 3-pointer early in the third quarter to give
Sacramento a 46-41 lead. But Boston cut the lead to one and then
went on a 13-2 run to take a 65-55 with three minutes left in the
Artest came back into the game and Sacramento scored the next
seven points to cut the deficit to three points.
The Kings had not lost to Boston since 2003. ... Perkins
had a double-double in less than three quarters. ... Boston's Tony
Allen made his first start of the season. ... It was Boston's first
home sellout since November. ... Pierce needs eight more points to
pass Jo Jo White and move into ninth on the Celtics all-time
scoring list. ... Artest's first points as a King were a 25-footer
1:58 into the game to make it 4-4. Szczerbiak didn't come into the
game until there was 3:30 left in the first half and he sank his
first basket in the third. ... Michael Olowokandi, who also came
over in the Minnesota deal, did not play.