SACRAMENTO (AP) — DeMarcus Cousins had 31 points and 15 rebounds, Rudy Gay scored 28 and the Sacramento Kings beat the Boston Celtics 109-101 Friday night to make new coach George Karl a winner in his return to the NBA.
The Kings overcame an early 16-point deficit and gave Karl his first victory since a playoff win with Denver against Golden State on April 30, 2013. This one was his 1,132nd regular-season victory, sixth-most in league history and more than the wayward Kings have in 30 seasons in Sacramento.
Derrick Williams had 11 points for the Kings, who outrebounded Boston 57-40.
With Karl wanting a more up-tempo style, Sacramento looked sloppy for much of the game. The Kings committed 24 turnovers, including nine by Cousins.
Avery Bradley scored 28 points and Tyler Zeller had 22 for Boston. Marcus Smart added 16 points and Brandon Bass had 13 points and 20 rebounds.
Sacramento led by eight early in the fourth quarter, but Boston went ahead briefly by one. Gay and Cousins combined for 13 points in a 14-4 run to help the Kings seal it.
It was Karl’s first game in nearly 22 months. A little more than a month after his Nuggets were upset in the opening round of the 2013 playoffs by Golden State, the team fired Karl despite a 57-25 regular-season record that earned him the NBA Coach of the Year award.
Karl’s hiring was a popular decision among Kings fans, at least for one evening. When he came out of the tunnel before the game he was met with a standing ovation by the sellout crowd. A sheepish Karl wore a big smile and waved to the crowd.
Karl, who signed a four-year contact last week, succeeded Tyrone Corbin, who had a 7-21 record after taking over when Michael Malone was fired in mid-December.
Coaching his sixth NBA team in 25 seasons, Karl has an uphill climb. He took over a team that had lost 13 of 15 games and won just nine times since opening the season with a promising 9-5 record.
Despite the pregame enthusiasm, the first quarter was not a pretty one early for the Kings. They trailed 16-2 in the opening 4 minutes and Cousins was given his seventh technical for arguing a non-call.
Even with the temperamental Cousins on the bench, the Kings roared back, scoring the final 17 points of the period to lead 28-27.
The margin was extended to 56-51 at halftime even though Sacramento committed 15 turnovers.
Boston played short-handed, without leading scorer and rebounder Jared Sullinger and newcomers Isaiah Thomas, Luigi Datome and Jonas Jerebko, who were acquired Thursday in trades.
Thomas, Datome and Jerebko will likely play Sunday, but Sullinger is out for the foreseeable future with a stress reaction in his left foot.
Celtics: Despite a 20-31 record, Boston came out of the All-Star break just 1 1/2 games out of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot. . Boston dressed 11 players.
Kings: Karl’s last game with Denver was May 2, 2013. ... David Stockton was signed to a 10-day contract due to an injury to G Darren Collison (strained right hip flexor). Stockton is the son of Utah Jazz Hall of Fame guard John Stockton, the NBA’s career leader in assists and steals. ... Picked up in a trade Thursday with Washington, veteran point guard Andre Miller was effective off the bench with eight points, four assists and four rebounds in 23 minutes.
The Celtics visit the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
The Kings play Saturday at the Los Angeles Clippers.