MEXICO CITY (AP) — Prior to the game, Isaiah Thomas said he was disappointed when he saw Boston’s schedule this season showed no visits to Sacramento.
He still got to show off for his former team, though, scoring 21 points as the Celtics defeated the Kings 114-97 Thursday night in the NBA’s third regular-season game played in Mexico.
Thomas, who played in Sacramento from 2011-14, finished with 21 points and nine assists helping the Celtics win for the fourth time in their last five games.
“I think I’m over it,” said Thomas, who was traded to Phoenix last year and then dealt to Boston late in the season. “But obviously you want to play good against your former team. But you also want to get the win, because winning is the most important thing and today we did it.”
Kelly Olynyk added 21 points for the Celtics while Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder each had 20.
“It make us very hard to guard when everybody’s pitching in,” Thomas said. “We have to be consistent in the offensive end and tonight everybody’s confidence was high.”
The game drew an announced crowd of 18,660.
Rudy Gay scored 18 points and DeMarcus Cousins added 16 for the Kings, who lost for the third time in their last four games.
“I’m disappointed. I think we need to be more serious at the beginning of the games. I do not know if tonight it was the altitude or the tempo or Boston playing well but they hit us hard at the start and we never recovered,” Sacramento coach George Karl said.
Rajon Rondo, playing against his former team for the second time in his career, was sent off in the third quarter after a double technical foul and finished with five points for the Kings.
“It was a blow to our ability to mount a comeback, because he has been our engine this season,” Karl said.
Rondo also faced the Celtics last season, when he was playing for the Dallas and scored 29 points in a 119-101 win.
This time the outcome was quite different because Boston took control of the game early on with Thomas scoring nine points in the first eight minutes. Olynyk added back-to-back baskets at the end of the first quarter to open the lead to 32-17 and the Celtics were in control the rest of the way.
The lead grew to 20 points after a 3-pointer by Thomas from the left corner with 9:05 left in the second quarter. After making the shot, the Celtics point guard gave a long stare at the Kings bench.
The game marked the 22nd time that the NBA played in Mexico, the most of any country outside of the U.S and Canada.
It’s one of only two NBA regular season games to be played abroad this season.
Orlando will play Toronto on Jan. 14 in London.
The Celtics forced 19 turnovers, just a little below their league-leading average (19.2).
The Kings were the home team in Mexico City but most of the fans in the Arena Ciudad de Mexico wore green colors and cheered loudly for Boston. According to the NBA office in Mexico, the Celtics, Lakers and the Bulls are the most popular teams in the country. Boston played for the first time in Mexican soil.
“We have been fortunate to have played this year in Milan, Madrid and now Mexico. I’m lucky to be in a team that is a global brand. It’s a responsibility to represent that,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “The crowd was very good, we had a great atmosphere.”
Celtics play at San Antonio on Saturday.
Kings play at Houston on Saturday.