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Kings clinch play-in ticket despite 101-100 loss to Celtics

BOSTON - Despite losing Friday night in Boston, the Sacramento Kings secured their ticket to a play-in game thanks to the Miami Heat defeating the Houston Rockets. The Kings still have a chance to avoid the play-in tournament with five games left in the regular season.

The Kings nearly completed a late comeback against the Boston Celtics but were unable to convert in the final seconds, losing 101-100.

De'Aaron Fox had 40 points for the Kings and banked in a go-ahead 26-footer with 27 seconds to play. But after Celtics reserve Xavier Tillman put Boston back in front, Fox misfired on a jumper – one of three potential game-winning shots for the Kings in the final seven seconds as the Celtics survived.

Domantas Sabonis added 16 points and 16 rebounds for the Kings, who have lost four of their last six as they try to avoid a spot in the play-in tournament. It was Sabonis' 73 double-double of the season, which is now a record for most double-doubles in a season. He broke a tie at 72 with Hakeem Olajuwon, who set the record during the 1992-93 season.

The Kings cut a 19-point fourth deficit to 99-97 on a driving layup by Fox.

Colby Jones blocked Pritchard's jumper on Boston's next possession, followed by Fox's 3-pointer that gave Sacramento its first lead since the first quarter.

Sam Hauser had his short jumper blocked by Keegan Murray on the Celtics' next possession. But Tillman was able to corral it and score to put Boston back in front for good.

The Kings trimmed a 16-point first-half deficit to 54-50 by halftime, but the Celtics outscored them 30-22 in the third quarter to take a 12-point lead to the fourth.

Both teams struggled to score in the first five-plus minutes of the game. Boston started just 1 for 10 from the field and Sacramento opened 1 for 8.

The Celtics found their touch, ending the first quarter by connecting on 9 of their final 10 shots. The Kings finished 5 of 21.

Boston's lead reached double-digits in the second quarter, but it needed every part of the basket at times to get it there. During one possession, Payton Pritchard fired up a deep 28-footer from beyond the top of the key. The ball bounced high off the back of the rim, clipped the front lip and then rolled off the glass before falling in.

Payton Pritchard had 21 points for the Celtics, including five 3-pointers. Kristaps Porzingis added 20 points and 11 rebounds – his second straight double-double – to help the NBA's top team claim its 12th consecutive win at home one game after clinching home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. They've won 13 of their last 15.  

Boston was without starters, Jaylen Brown and Derrick White.

Brown sat with the sprained left hand that also kept him out of Monday's win over Charlotte. Brown called it a ligament-related issue and acknowledged it was bothering him during Wednesday's victory over Oklahoma City. Coach Joe Mazzulla said that Friday's absence was about managing the issue and that he didn't anticipate Brown being sidelined for the rest of the regular season.

White, who has started 70 of Boston's 77 games this season, was out with a bruised lower back.

Looking at the Western Conference standings, the Kings are currently in the eighth seed and are 1.5 games behind the Phoenix Suns for the sixth seed. The Suns are playing Western Conference leaders Minnesota Timberwolves in Phoenix on Friday night. 

If they lose, the Kings will be just one game out of avoiding the play-in tournament but could be two games out if the Suns win with five games to go.

The New Orleans Pelicans, who currently hold the seventh seed, were also in action Friday night. They dropped their fourth straight game, losing 111-109 to the San Antonino Spurs. 

The Los Angeles Lakers are the 10th seed but have the same record as the Kings.

Remaining schedules:

Kings: at Nets, at Thunder, vs Pelicans, vs Suns, vs Trail Blazers

Suns: vs T-Wolves, vs Pelicans, vs Clippers, at Clippers, at Kings, at T-Wolves

Pelicans: at Suns, at Trail Blazers, at Kings, at Warriors, vs Lakers

Lakers: vs Cavs, vs T-Wolves, vs Warriors, at Grizzlies, at Pelicans

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