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January 31, 2013

Pierce leads Celtics to 99-81 win over Kings

BOSTON — Paul Pierce scored 16 points and the Boston Celtics won their second game since losing Rajon Rondo for the season with a knee injury, beating the Sacramento Kings 99-81 on Wednesday night.

The Celtics charged to a 59-38 halftime lead as they hit 62.5 percent of their shots. They led by at least 14 points the rest of the way against the team that allowed an NBA-worst average of 103.2 points going into the game.

Boston won despite losing another starter when forward Jared Sullinger left just over four minutes into the game with back spasms and didn’t return. Sullinger was drafted 21st last year by the Celtics, but might have gone higher if he hadn’t suffered back problems at Ohio State.

Tyreke Evans had 19 points and 11 rebounds and DeMarcus Cousins scored 13 for the Kings, who had beaten the Celtics 118-96 in Sacramento on Dec. 30 but fell to 5-18 on the road.

The Celtics trailed only once, 24-22 after one quarter and led by 21 at halftime. They were on top 80-56 before layups by Thomas Robinson and Evans cut that to 80-60 after three quarters. A three-point play by Cousins made it 90-76 with 5:44 remaining, but the Kings came no closer.

Courtney Lee started in place of Rondo, who leads the NBA assists and was chosen as the starting point guard for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game next month in Houston.

Rondo was injured late in a 123-112, double-overtime loss to the Atlanta Hawks last Friday night. Boston won another double-overtime game on Sunday, 100-98 over the Miami Heat, breaking a six-game losing streak, their longest in six seasons. An MRI taken that day showed that Rondo had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

On Wednesday, Kevin Garnett scored 13 points and substitutes Brandon Bass, Jeff Green and Jason Terry had 12 each for Boston.

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